Drivers, get the Bluetooth ready: lawmakers poised to debate hands-free driving

Drivers, get the Bluetooth ready: lawmakers poised to debate hands-free driving

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Sending that text message and even holding a cellphone while driving on South Carolina roads could soon cost much more than before if one bill becomes law. The fine for texting and driving would quadruple for the first-time offender, but other things would be banned as well.

The numbers show distracted driving causes South Carolina roads to be deadly. The Highway Patrol reports that so far this year, 13 people have died due to distracted driving.

To prevent that, one bill in the State House would make the penalties stricter. However, on Thursday debate was once again delayed on it in the House of Representatives.

The bill would up the fine for texting and driving to $100 the first time and $300 each time after and no points on the driver's license. The two-point penalty was removed from the bill. Under the bill, there would be a ban on holding an electronic device like a cellphone while driving.

WIS-TV spoke with one driving instructor who doesn't take a position on the bill because of his job but says distracted driving is a real problem he sees in students, often.

"The timeframe it takes for a collision to occur is about one to one-point-five seconds. And it's very crucial that you keep your focus on your driving," says Wayne Abney who teaches drivers with Alive at 25 for the Southeastern branch of the National Safety Council. "That tends to get people's attention when you get in their wallet as far as penalties and fines. And you can't put a cost on a life. What a family member expects when a loved one leaves the home is they expect their loved one to return home."

The bill could be debated and passed from the House on Tuesday. That's the last chance it has to make it to law this year before it dies. It has to make it over to the Senate by Tuesday.

Most drivers who spoke with WIS-TV were supportive of stricter consequences for distracted driving.

"I'm a high school teacher, and I don't want my students distracted while they're driving," Eddie Clark said.

"It's something that needs to be corrected, definitely, just because a lot of young kids today aren't paying attention because they're so into social media," said Darius Barton.

"Definitely, because I don't have $100 to give to the government if I got caught texting and driving and it would be an issue with my parents," said Emma Shealy.

WIS-TV did speak with another college student, unnamed, who was not feeling supportive toward the bill; the student said the fines seem "steep" for those who already struggle to pay things like parking tickets.

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