Make SC roads safer with texting-driving ban

The message couldn't be more blunt: You drive, you text, you die.

AAA Carolinas' ad campaign against texting while driving is to be applauded. It certainly drives home the point about its potentially deadly consequences.

Now lawmakers need to do their part by making the practice illegal.

Last year, the House passed a bill to make texting while driving a misdemeanor carrying a $25 fine, but the measure died in a Senate committee.

For the upcoming session, several bills have been filed that would make it illegal to send, read or receive electronic messages while driving.

A Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Jake Knotts, mirrors the bill that almost made it through the legislature last year.

Knotts made an impassioned plea last year for making it illegal to send or read electronic messages while driving. It was particularly effective because Knotts had fought against the state's seat belt requirements five years ago. He conceded he was wrong and said lives had been saved because of the requirements.

Since the seat belt law took effect in 2005, the number of fatalities on state roads has dropped from 1,093 to 770 last year, according to the Department of Public Safety. That's the lowest total since 730 people died on South Carolina's roads in 1982.

In 2006, a survey found about 72 percent of the state's drivers wore their seat belts. A survey in 2010 found about 85 percent of drivers buckled up.

Public Safety officials credited the drop in fatalities in 2010 to a campaign to crack own on speeding, seat belt violations and drunken driving.

State troopers now are going to focus on distracted driving, which will include texting and using cell phones, as well as eating and other activities that take a driver's focus off the road.

A law making it illegal to text while driving will help them in that important effort. Many drivers will be less likely to do so if it is against the law, and that could save lives.