CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -– A crackdown on distracted driving could be on the way for South Carolina motorists.
The State House is considering a bill that would ban cell phone use while driving.
The current distracted driving law prohibits texting while driving, but this new bill would make it illegal to hold a cell phone for any reason besides using a single button to start or end a phone call.
“They have to start catching them and apprehending them and giving them some kind of ticket or something,” West Ashley resident Pauline Straub said.
Drivers in Charleston said they have a lot of experience driving on roads next to other drivers who are texting.
“It’s crazy,” Ik Jumani said. “I’ve even almost been in a wreck with somebody almost rear-ending me. you know, while they were texting, you could see them with the phone in their hand.”
If passed, the law would also prevent drivers from reaching for a cell phone if it would cause the driver to unbuckle their seatbelt or leave their seated position.
The law would not apply to drivers who are stopped on the side of the road.
Under the proposed law, drivers would still be able to use hands-free devices or GPS apps on the phone.
“If you can use your Bluetooth through your car, through your hands-free, it’s safe for everyone around you,” Jumani said.
Some lawmakers and law enforcement officers have complained that the current South Carolina ban is too weak.
According to the current law, writing a ticket for texting while driving has to be part of a secondary offense, meaning police have to pull over a driver for another violation.
Drivers also have to admit guilt to texting while driving, which some critics say lets people easily avoid being cited for distracted driving.
But not every driver is on board with the new law. State Representative Robert Brown said on the phone that he is concerned the bill opens people up to racial profiling.
It could also be difficult for people without Bluetooth in their car to follow the law.
But Brown said he would support the bill because he thinks there’s a need for keeping people safe on the roads.
Similar laws have been passed in several other states, including Georgia’s recent hands-free legislation, which took effect on July 1, 2018.
Any driver who is caught violating the law would have to pay $200, if the bill moves forward.
The bill has been approved by a House subcommittee and sent to the House Education and Public Works Committee.