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Highway Patrol looking at ways to enforce new texting and driving laws

CHARLESTON, SC - As the 180-day grace period starts for the new texting and driving law in South Carolina, the state’s Highway Patrol is figuring out how it will enforce it.

"Kind of like the seat belt, we have to have a full unobstructed view of the cell phone and what appears to be someone texting and driving," said Hannah Wimberly, a spokesperson for the highway patrol. “Also we'll be looking for violations such as weaving across the center line."

In 2013, the state highway patrol reports 93 accidents were caused by texting, 381 from drivers on their cell phones and 17,000 from distracted drivers.

The state highway patrol says it may use local agencies that already had ordinances banning texting and driving as a guide.

"A lot of the local jurisdictions as far as city jurisdictions go have had this ordinance in place for a while, so if we talk to them and see how they're enforcing it and see how they've gone about doing it,” Wimberly said.

But in Mount Pleasant where texting and driving has been illegal for eight months, police have given out six tickets total. Live 5 News has still not received texting and driving ticket numbers from Charleston, who also had an ordinance banning it.

Wimberly stresses that all it takes for a wreck is just one text.

"An average text message takes five seconds to read and in that five seconds you can drive the length of a football field if you're traveling at 55 mph and we're just looking at the dangers of this," Wimberly said.

Some are worried the law may not change anything.

"I think that young people and the ones that just don't think anything is going to happen to them are going to continue to do it,” said Carol Stukes, a Lowcountry driver.

Others say the $25 fine, which is lower than every other state except California’s $20 fine, is not enough.

"The fine is minimal and until there is something that's really going to hurt somebody's pocket, they're just going to disregard it," said Cindy Koeniger, a Charleston resident.

The Highway Patrol says the real cost is much higher.

“Just one text isn't worth anyone's life it's very selfish to be texting and driving because you can risk your life and someone else's on the road,” Wimberly said.

South Carolina is the 49th state to pass a law making texting and driving illegal. Only Montana has not passed one.

Copyright 2014 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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