What will it take to get a texting while driving ban?

info@islandpacket.comApril 30, 2013 

Lawmakers are driving local governments to pass their own texting bans with their inability to pass statewide legislation.

Another session is heading into its final weeks with no votes in the full House or Senate on any of eight separate bills that would impose penalties for texting while driving. None of the measures has made it out of committee.

Today is the deadline for bills to move from one chamber to the other without needing a two-thirds vote to be considered.

Efforts to pass some kind of legislation dealing with texting and driving have failed for the past five years. South Carolina is one of only five states with no law banning texting and driving. Thirty-nine states ban it for all drivers under all circumstances.

The problem is only getting worse. According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 percent of people surveyed said that in the past 30 days, they had read or sent at least one text message while driving. Sixty-nine percent of drivers ages 18-64 reported that they had talked on their cell phone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed.

The report cites three main types of distractions while driving: Visual, taking your eyes off the road; manual, taking your hands off the wheel; and cognitive, taking your mind off what you are doing.

"Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distractions," the report states.

We don't need a study to tell us that; most of us know it from personal experience. The question is what will stop us from doing what we know endangers us, our passengers and other people on the road.

Seven communities, including the city of Beaufort, have passed their own laws to try to curb the dangerous practice. Hilton Head Island's Town Council took up the subject in March. We said then that drivers would be much more likely to follow a law more widely enforced.

We held out hope that lawmakers would come through with a statewide ban. Last year, the House 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.

It wasn't the best solution; texting while driving should be illegal for all drivers, not just those of a certain age or in specific situations. But it was forward movement and suggested lawmakers had it in them to do something to curb texting while driving.

Apparently, we were wrong. We're not sure what it will take to get a texting ban passed. In the meantime, local officials can pass their own bans. It would at least be a step in the right direction.

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