COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – South Carolina lawmakers want drivers to put the phone down. The state has a texting and driving law, but some lawmakers are looking to take that legislation a step further.
Lawmakers say the state’s current texting while driving law just scratches the surface in solving the problem of distracted driving. That’s why many want to expand the law and make sure drivers aren’t using the phone at all behind the wheel.
“This is a public safety issue for the State of South Carolina,” said Senator Tom Young to a transportation subcommittee Tuesday afternoon.
Young says the use of cell phones poses a serious danger. The Aiken County lawmaker filed a bill prohibiting anyone from holding a cell phone behind the wheel, no matter what.
Senator Young added, “This legislation will save lives in South Carolina.”
It’s legislation many at Tuesday’s meeting say is needed.
Kershaw County Sheriff Lee Boan also addressed the small group of lawmakers concerning the proposal. The sheriff recapped for legislators why the legislation is necessary for keeping drivers and pedestrians safe.
“This past Thursday we had a very serious incident involving one of my deputies, directing traffic at a school crossing, she was struck by a vehicle, the vehicle’s speed was about 40mph and the driver admitted he was looking at his phone distracted,” explained Boan.
The proposal also gives law enforcement more leverage to pull drivers over for violating the law — an area of ambiguity right now.
“For us on the road with a law like this if we see them with any kind of device in their hand we know that they’re violating it,” Boan added. “That’s a lot better than not knowing what they’re doing and maybe can stop and check and see if they’re going to be honest with us.”
The majority of people at Tuesday’s meeting support the bill. But the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) wants to see the legislation enhanced even more. The agency is calling on a ban of all cell phone usage even hands-free behind the wheel.
“Visual and manual distraction are familiar to most of us; eyes on the road, hands on the wheel. But even with hands-free devices, cognitive distractions are still the cause of crashes,” explained Stephanie Shaw with NTSB.
The bill would also increase fines associated with the violation. Right now drivers can receive a $25 ticket if they’re caught texting and driving. This proposal would raise that fine to $100 and create a threshold for second and subsequent offenses.
The subcommittee did not take any action on the bill during this meeting. Instead, the lawmakers will come back at a later date to determine if the bill will be passed to the full transportation committee.
Right now, 20 states, including Georgia, have hands-free laws in place. Forty eight states have texting while driving bans.