SC lawmaker proposes rules to combat distracted driving

SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – Tougher rules could be on the way for distracted drivers. A South Carolina Lawmaker is proposing a bill that would ban drivers from holding a phone in their hand.

“People who drive distracted are potentially worse than drunk drivers,” said State Representative Bill Taylor. “You can’t drive your vehicle down the road without looking at the road and potentially injure or kill somebody else.”

The Republican from Aiken prefiled a bill tackling what he calls DUI-E – Driving Under the Influence of an Electronic Device.

“I think it’s a problem,” said commuter Heather Hanlon. “People have been on the road and cut me off texting and driving.”

Representative Taylor says South Carolina’s 2014 texting ban with its $25 fine yields about 1300 violations each year.

“The current texting ban is almost useless,” said Taylor. “An officer has to stop you for another violation and then confront you about using your cell phone as a texting device and all you have to do is deny it.”

The new bill proposes the following:

  • DUI-E prohibits drivers from holding a phone in either hand.
  • DUI-E prohibits drivers from typing, sending or reading text-based communications.
  • DUI-E first offense: $100 fine.
  • DUI-E second & subsequent offenses: $300 fine and 2 points on your driving record.
  • DUI-E violations will be reported to insurance carriers like all other violations.
  • DUI-E violations prohibit arrest or incarceration.

Under the legislation, the following would still be allowed:

  • You can answer or initiate phone calls or text messages via voice commands using blue tooth, speaker phone, heads sets or some other hands-free device.
  • You can adjust your GPS mapping with voice commands or by setting destinations in advance of driving.
  • You are allowed to activate or deactivate a function of a wireless device (as example, your phone) with one swipe or a touch, but it still must not be in your hands.

“Especially with all the technology that we have, you don’t necessarily need to pick up a phone to text or to make a phone call,” said driver Karsten Booker, who added the higher fines may be too much. “I’m sure that’s a good way for the government to make revenue but for ordinary people that can cause hardships.”

Taylor says distracted drivers should pay the price.. for risking other people’s lives.   

“I guess if you want to kill yourself that’s personal liberty but please don’t kill my family, my grandchildren or anyone else,” said Representative Taylor.

Greenville city leaders banned handheld devices behind the wheel a few years ago, but like all the other municipalities across South Carolina, the state texting ban over ruled those local laws.