Editorial: Strong texting ban needed in our state

  • Posted: Friday, April 11, 2014 12:01 a.m.

It’s a positive sign that lawmakers are moving forward with a statewide texting-while-driving ban, but a passive approach will do little to make our roads safer.

While enacting such a law won’t necessarily make our roads completely safe, a substantive ban would certainly make them less dangerous. The House measure calls for only a $25 fine, which will pack little punch in the wallets of most drivers. However, if there’s a silver lining to the House’s measure, it’s that it does keep the issue alive for the last few weeks of this legislative session. Typically, May 1 is the deadline to move a bill forward if it has any chance of becoming law. The bill will now move to the S.C. Senate, where legislators have thankfully expressed a desire to include stricter penalties.

Letting a substantive texting ban fall by the wayside would be a sign of complete negligence on the part of the General Assembly. This kind of legislation, which can ultimately help to save lives, shouldn’t involve such a benign approach. It should be aimed at significantly reducing reckless driving. A $25 fine – the same as not wearing a seat belt – won’t deter most people from distracted driving. And almost endless statistics back up the fact that texting while driving is foolish and deadly.

If you text and drive, your eyes will likely be off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every six seconds while you try to send your text, according the U.S. Department of Transportation. So at 55 miles per hour, a driver would travel 100 yards – the length of a football field – without looking at the road.

Enforcing a texting ban won’t be easy. Determining whether a person is texting or dialing or doing something else with a phone could prove troublesome. But that doesn’t negate the fact that a statewide law – one that carries a strong punitive approach – would deter most drivers from engaging in such a practice.

A number of cities, including Charleston and Greenville, have been ahead of the curve and passed their own texting bans in recent years. However, it’s time for a more uniform plan of action to curb reckless driving.

Our state is closer than ever to joining the rest of the nation by instituting a texting ban. Lawmakers must now find an effective way to institute a rational, yet effective answer to this ongoing problem.

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