Put down your cell phone while driving in Beaufort

info@islandpacket.comOctober 20, 2012 

Beaufort police officers are about to put theory to the test as they get ready to enforce the city's new ban on texting while driving.

Equally challenging will be keeping up with drivers under 18 who will be breaking city law if they use a handheld cellphone while driving or text while driving.

City Council wisely allowed 60 days for public education campaign before police start enforcing the new law.

The focus of the campaign will be to warn young people about the dangers of distracted driving, Police Chief Matt Clancy said.

"Our key phrase is 'Get the message: Don't text and drive,'<2009>" 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."

Enforcement starts next month, but the campaign is to run through January. We encourage anyone who can help with this endeavor to step up. We all benerom safer driving.

Still, this is going to be a hard habit to break. Many of us are perpetually tethered to our smartphones. The phenomenon has become the subject of scientific study. We're even being warned now about the risks children face from distracted parents.

Beaufort has joined six other cities in banning texting and driving.

A statewide ban would be far better. Drivers would be much more likely to follow a law more widely enforced. But state lawmakers continue to fall short.

The S.C. House this session passed a bill banning handheld cell phone use and texting for drivers under 18 and banning texting for all drivers in highway construction and school zones. The bill got two of three readings in the Senate before the session ended. That's progress, but the measure didn't go far enough.

Texting and driving should be illegal for all drivers, not just those of a certain age or in specific situations.

Beaufort's ordinance won't be easy to enforce. Officers must clearly see someone texting or typing to warrant pulling them over.

City Councilman George O'Kelley, who pushed for the ordinance, said he recognizes the difficulties associated with enforcing it, but also thinks having a law on the books will be a deterrent for many drivers, making the city's roads that much safer.

"I'm hoping that just like the speed limit," O'Kelley said. "Good people will defer to the law and not do it. And if we save a life, it's worth it."

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