New anti-distracted-driving legislation has hit the S.C. Senate.
Senate Bill 723, the South Carolina Hands-Free Act, was introduced on Thursday and was handed off to the Transportation Committee.
State Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, is the bill's primary sponsor.
The South Carolina Hands-Free Act, if signed into law, would create a distracted-driving offense and make it illegal to, among other things, hold a phone, call, text, watch a video, email or use the internet while driving.
Exemptions are made for first responders, utility workers and those reporting a traffic hazard, crime, fire or any other sort of emergency. Phones and electronics could also be used by those legally stopped on the side of the road, parked or using voice commands and dictation.
Violators would be on first offense fined $100; subsequent violations would carry a $300 fine and two points. A portion of each fine would go to the state Department of Public Safety to help fund public awareness campaigns and hands-free education.
Police, according to the bill, would not be allowed to search a person's phone or vehicle based solely on a distracted-driving violation.
The South Carolina Hands-Free Act is effectively the sister of state Rep. Bill Taylor's Driving Under the Influence of an Electronic Device – DUI-E for short – legislation.
Taylor's attempt to curb distracted driving, what he calls an epidemic, last legislative session did not make much headway. His attempt this legislative session was referred back to a committee after debate on the S.C. House floor.
Taylor, an Aiken Republican, last week said "legislative trial lawyers" and the ultimate referal likely killed his bill.
"You can never predict the legislative process, but I'm not encouraged," he said at the time.
Taylor said he connected with Young shortly after. Both are members of the Aiken County Legislative Delegation.
A texting-and-driving ban went into effect in South Carolina several years ago.