SC lawmakers hear testimony on proposed hands-free bill

VIDEO: Lawmakers hear testimony on proposed hands-free bill for SC

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/WIS) - Lawmakers in Columbia heard testimony Tuesday from federal and state officials on the impact of a hands-free law could have in South Carolina as part of a renewed push this year for the legislation.

It is currently illegal to text and drive in South Carolina.

The Hands-Free Act would make it illegal to use a wireless telecommunications device like a cell phone while driving.

Last week, a Kershaw County deputy was struck by a vehicle at a school crossing. Deputies say the driver admitted to looking at his phone at the time of the crash.
Last week, a Kershaw County deputy was struck by a vehicle at a school crossing. Deputies say the driver admitted to looking at his phone at the time of the crash. (Source: Kershaw County Sheriff's Office)

Sheriff Lee Boan of Kershaw County was one of the people who testified. Just last week, one of his deputies was hit by a car in a school zone. He said the driver of the vehicle who struck the deputy said he was looking down at his phone.

Boan said deputies noticed drivers were moving much slower in school zones later that same day after video of the incident had been posted. He said raising awareness about the issue is a temporary fix and a hands-free law would be a permanent solution.

Boan told lawmakers that rather than talking to them, he could have been at the deputy’s funeral. Fortunately, she is recovering and is expected to be ok.

“She could’ve been sitting on a unicorn juggling panda bears but if somebody’s not looking at her they’re not going to see that,” Boan said.

Boan believes a hands-free law could make roads safer in the state.

“It’s a lot better than not knowing exactly what they’re doing," he said. “We can maybe stop and check to see if they’ll be honest with us but this will be a good enforceable law we’d need.”

The current law prohibiting texting and driving allows law enforcement can write you a ticket if you admit to doing so when you are pulled over or are involved in an accident. Drivers who are cited for texting and driving face a $25 fine.

“I’ve been riding besides vehicles at night and where the interior of the cars are lit up inside,” South Carolina Department of Public Safety Maj. S.A. Stankus said. “I can see the person looking at their phone. I can see their thumb manipulating the phone and you conduct a traffic stop and they tell you they were looking up a phone number. Your hands are really tied.”

A similar piece of legislation was introduced in the South Carolina House earlier this year. Lawmakers pumped the brakes on it and it never came to a vote.

Those in favor of the law are hoping for better luck in the state Senate.

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