Beaufort police, city prepare campaign on texting ban

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comOctober 15, 2012 

Beaufort police are preparing a public-education campaign aimed at teaching drivers -- particularly high school students -- about the city's new ban on texting while driving.

The ordinance takes effect next month.

Beaufort became the sixth city in the state to outlaw the practice when City Council approved the ordinance. It's enforcement was delayed 60 days to allow city and police officials time to tell drivers what the new law means for them.

With a focus on warning young people about the dangers of distracted driving, the campaign will be launched later this month, Police Chief Matt Clancy said.

"Our key phrase is 'Get the message: Don't text and drive,'" Clancy said. "We are working on a fact sheet ... to the area schools, and pricing items like key chains that can be handed out with the message on them. We thought key chains would be appropriate as a reminder because every time someone starts their car, they would see it."

Clancy said the program's launch will give drivers and police officers ample time to adjust to the ordinance, which imposes fines starting at $50 and increasing to $150 for repeated violations.

"The officers will be prepared to enforce the ordinance when it becomes enacted, but the goal is not to write tickets," Clancy said. "The goal is to make our streets safer. It is a long-term education program, similar to what was done years ago with seat-belt use."

An officer must clearly see a driver texting or typing to make a traffic stop for violating the ordinance.

A proposed statewide ban failed to pass the S.C. Senate before the General Assembly adjourned in June. A bill proposing a statewide ban passed the House of Representatives and would have made it illegal for drivers under 18 to talk on cellphones or text while driving. It also criminalized cellphone use for all drivers in construction and school zones.

City Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. wrote the Beaufort ordinance, which is based on the House version.

Clancy said the public-education campaign probably would run through January.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft

Related content:

Beaufort's texting-while-driving ban goes into effect in 60 days, Sept. 11, 2012

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