Published: June 11, 2014 | United States
A new law makes South Carolina the 49th state to ban texting while driving. It is among dozens of new laws the Republican governor has signed since the legislative session officially ended.
A statewide ban on writing, sending or reading a text while driving took effect when Gov. Nikki Haley signed the law. The ban supersedes at least 19 differing city and two county ordinances on texting, creating consistency across the state. Montana is now the only state without a statewide ban.
In a state that relishes personal freedoms, legislators have long balked at telling people what they can hold in their hands while in their vehicles. In killing similar measures in the past, legislators argued operating a phone behind the wheel was no more hazardous than eating, putting on makeup, or fiddling with the radio.
But the increasing number of local ordinances prompted them to pass something. The law is a compromise between the chambers’ differing versions. The proposal that passed the Senate applied only to young drivers with a beginner’s or restricted license. The House debate centered on ensuring officers could not confiscate or search someone’s phone.
South Carolina’s law still allows people to text if they are legally stopped or using a hands-free device. It also specifically permits using GPS navigation.
A violation is not a crime, nor can it be reported to the driver’s insurer. The maximum fine is $50. Officers can write only warnings for the first six months, meaning a fine can’t be levied until mid-December.