Texting ban in Bluffton important safety step

info@islandpacket.comOctober 10, 2013 

JONATHAN DYER — The Beaufort Gazette

Bluffton Town Council's move to make texting while driving illegal would be a welcome addition to local bans on the dangerous practice.

The council Tuesday approved the first of two votes needed to pass an ordinance that would prohibit the use of an electronic communication device to compose, read or send an electronic message while driving in Bluffton. Violators would face a misdemeanor fine of $100 for the first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300 for each additional violation.

If the proposed ordinance becomes law, Bluffton would join Beaufort, Hilton Head Island and Beaufort County in banning texting while driving.

Bluffton is particularly key to the local effort. The town encompasses nearly 50 square miles. Traffic on major roads, such as S.C. 46, S.C. 170 and U.S. 278, move in and out of its boundaries. A uniform ban would be far easier for drivers to follow and officers to enforce.

Hardeeville, whose boundaries also have expanded to about 50 square miles in recent years, last month voted to put in place a ban. The town of Port Royal should join the others.

Two major municipalities in the state also are joining local governments that have imposed bans in the absence of a statewide ban. Charleston just passed its ordinance and Greenville expects to have a ban in place by Jan. 1.

Bluffton's ordinance is very similar to the other local ordinances. It, too, allows public safety officials, such as firefighters, police officers and emergency medical responders, to use electronic devices while driving on the job.

Drivers who use hands-free or voice-operated systems could still review, prepare and transmit messages.

Still, we urge drivers to refrain from any activity that takes away their attention from the road for too long.

And none of these local ordinances lets lawmakers off the hook. They should pass a statewide ban and join the other 42 states that have passed texting bans for all drivers. South Carolina and Montana are alone in failing to pass any limits on texting while driving or cellphone use while driving.

Urge lawmakers to get this important work done in the coming legislative session.

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