SC’s texting ban among good laws
Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:00 AM
We will readily admit to being among the holdouts on texting bans. When the City of Greenwood passed an ordinance banning texting while behind the wheel, we were among those who cried foul, not because we think texting and driving make for a good mix, but because of concerns about how far the government -- any government -- can and will go in telling individuals what they can and cannot do. That’s the libertarian ingredient we sometimes find in our mix of views.
But a statewide ban was passed by our state lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley, making South Carolina the 49th state to implement a statewide ban. Only Montana is without such a ban, and while it is tempting to say “so what,” given the vast expanse of that grand state with only roughly 1 million people, we think Montana should join us. At least South Carolina can be thankful it will not have the reputation of being the lone holdout. This time.
Why the change of heart? Because as AAA’s Tom Crosby so succinctly pointed out in lauding the Palmetto State legislature’s shift of opinion, what people do behind the wheel does not only affect them. Of course, we have known that all along. Shaving, applying makeup, changing radio stations and CDs can be extremely distracting to drivers. More than that, however, is the alarming evidence of the particularly heightened risk of texting and driving. It is, in short, a volatile combination and just as we have laws designed to deter drunken driving, for the safety of the drivers themselves as well as others they could potentially literally come in contact with, the evidence is clear: All states need a ban on texting while behind the wheel because it can be a killer of a distraction.
Of interest in the Palmetto State’s law is it specifically bans writing, sending or reading a text while driving. We know iPhone users are already thinking they can bypass the law because they have Siri on their side, the Apple-only program that essentially lets users easily and quickly dictate a message without having to look at or touch the keypad. With one exception, which likely will close that invented loophole. Users have to select the microphone on the keypad to launch Siri before they can dictate. The next loophole? They still have to hit the “send” button. So it appears lawmakers were savvy enough to ensure there’s little chance to bypass the law.
Lawmakers also were kind with regard to the dispensation of punishment. A violation of the law will not be a crime. No one will get locked up. Furthermore, no one’s phone will be confiscated or its content searched. Instead, violators face a maximum $50 fine. That might not be high enough to sway some who frequently text now, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Lawmakers did make an exception to the law by allowing texting if using a hands-free device, such as through an automobile’s Bluetooth system. That likely will remain as safe as hands-free calling. The main issue, after all, has been that texting in particular has proved dangerous because the texter is looking entirely too much at his phone and not looking at the road and what lies ahead. Sure, hands-free calling can be distracting, just as applying makeup, shaving and any host of other activities that take the driver’s attention away from the task at hand, but the compromise is a good one.
We get as suspicious as anyone about lawmakers seemingly concocting laws that trample individual rights, but the obvious outright danger texting while driving creates and the potential effect it has on the lives of others, not just the driver, are reason enough to enact texting bans nationwide.
If a text is so important, give the phone to a passenger or pull over and text. Or maybe make a hands-free call.