Bluffton Town Council bans texting behind the wheel

dburley@islandpacket.comNovember 12, 2013 

JONATHAN DYER — The Beaufort Gazette

Drivers in Bluffton can no longer legally text behind the wheel.

The Bluffton Town Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a ban on sending, writing or reading electronic messages while driving.

"I think you all know how I feel about this; it's time," Mayor Lisa Sulka said about the ban at Council's October meeting. Council did not discuss the measure before passing it Tuesday.

The Bluffton Police Department will enforce the new law, which is effective immediately.

Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $300 for subsequent offenses.

Motorists asking for emergency service are exempt from the ban, as are emergency responders, such as deputies and EMS workers using electronic devices as part of their duties, according to town documents.

Bluffton's ordinance's moves the area closer to a countywide ban on texting behind the wheel.

A similar ban was approved in September by the Beaufort County Council. In the past year, the Town of Hilton Head Island and the cities of Beaufort and Hardeeville have outlawed the practice.

The town of Port Royal will begin discussing a law of its own this month, according to town manager Van Willis. Yemassee, which lies partially in Beaufort County, has no such law.

Two major municipalities in the state have also moved to institute bans. Charleston passed its ordinance in October and Greenville expects to have a ban in place by Jan. 1.

Nationally, South Carolina is not among the 42 states with a ban for all drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

In other action Tuesday, council:

  • Agreed to hire a structural engineer to draft a bracing plan for the relocation of the historic Graves House. The plan, which costs $8,000, would estimate how feasible it is to move the century-old home from Calhoun Street to resident Garfield Moss' property on Lawrence and Wharf streets. Last week, the town's Historic Preservation Commitee gave Moss approval to move the home. If Moss does not move the home, the town will keep the $8,000, council said.
  • Approved a measure to allow parking on the south side of Lawrence Street from Calhoun Street to Captain's Cove. Councilwoman Karen Lavery said some Lawrence Street residents have said visitors to their homes had nowhere to park. Parking was outlawed last month on the street as part of the Calhoun Street striping plan, which will begin Monday with the painting of no-parking zones in front of mailboxes, driveways and fire hydrants on the road between Bridge Street and May River Road. A four-way stop at Lawrence and Calhoun will also be installed.
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