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New Texting and Driving Law Weakens Lowcountry Ordinances

New Texting and Driving Law Weakens Lowcountry Ordinances

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BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. - A new South Carolina law is passed to make roads safer by banning texting behind the wheel. What does that mean for ordinances in the Lowcountry that already had bans on texting while driving? Some areas see a weaker penalty. 

"I think texting and driving takes a lot of people's lives into danger," Matt Papka of Elev8 Bikes says. 
"I think too many people are driving and texting, and that just adds another plane to it. What about the bicyclers?"

Papka is president of his bike company, Elev8 Bikes in Hilton Head Island. He says texting behind the wheel not only puts motorists at risk, but bicyclists too. As of last Monday, texting and driving is finally illegal in the Palmetto State. If caught, each time you violate will cost you
 $25.

"Is the fine enough? I'm not sure," Papka says. "Will it be a deterrent? I don't know."

Others have doubts, too. The law replaces more expensive fines already in place in cities like Beaufort, and towns like Bluffton and Hilton Head Island. Under the new law, no points will be added to the licenses of those caught texting and driving. 
Insurance company's won't be notified either.

However, driver instructor Tommy Collins of First Step Driver Training believes the law is a step forward. He says that at the very least, it puts the entire state on the same page. 
But is the law enforceable? It gives exemptions to dialing a number, and even using a GPS app. The driving instructor and former trooper says officers will be able to ticket those who are texting and driving.

"Just look around. People are very blatant about the use of a cell phone and when they're texting, so I don't think it is hard to enforce as some people might think," Collins says. 

Both Collins and Papka agree, for those who are caught and aren't honest, it could be a law easy to dodge.

"It's going to have to come down to somebody admitting to what they were doing on that cell phone at that time," Collins says.

"Do you think a lot of people will say, 'Yes, I was texting,' or do you think a lot of people will say, 'No, I was looking at the weather,' or my app for the stock market, or 'I was looking for a contact to call somebody?'" Papka asks.

Drivers who are caught texting ans driving over these next 180 days will receive a warning only. Officers cannot confiscate a phone to verify the driver as texting. 


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