City Bans Texting While Driving

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — April Lewis admits she texts while driving.

“It’s dangerous.  I shouldn’t do it, but it’s hard not to do it.”

If she continues to do it within the city limits of the Capitol City, she may have to answer to local police.  Effectively immediately, texting behind the wheel is a civil infraction, punishable by a $100 fine, and that’s before possible court costs.

So what can you do in your own car while driving on city streets?  If you are lawfully parked or stopped like at a red light for example, you may send, read and compose text messages.  You can also talk on the phone and you can turn your phone on or off.

Chairman of the the city’s Public Safety Committe, Councilman Brian Newman, says ‘near-misses’ on the road pose too much of a real problem.

“Everyone’s had that near incident where they almost ran into somebody,” said Newman.  We have an obligation to make sure people are safe, whether from home burglaries or driving recklessly. It’s serious.”

The ordinance is also very enforceable, Newman claims.  Police officers are already on the lookout.

“It’s incumbent upon them to observe people making this infraction and if they do so, they will cite them.”

However, that won’t really start for another month. Cops are giving violators a grace period to get adjusted to the new law before issuing tickets.

“Towards the end of April, that’s about the time people should start getting concerned.”

Police may pull you over if they have probably cause and have observed you texting while driving.  But they cannot arrest you, take your phone, search occupants of the vehicle or request to search occupants of the vehicle.