Two bills to ban texting while driving in South Carolina will be up for debate in committees this week at the Statehouse, one in the Senate and one in the House.
Columbia driver Meghan Blevins says, "I think banning texting when driving is really good. I think it causes a lot of accidents."
41 states and Washington D.C. already ban texting while driving. 37 states and D.C. ban all handheld cell phone use by new or teen drivers.
A third bill up for debate in a Senate committee would ban drivers with beginner's or restricted licenses from using handheld cell phones while driving. The bill would also make it illegal for all drivers to use cell phones while driving through school zones that have their lights flashing. Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, is sponsoring that bill.
"The school zone (bill) was because I had a law enforcement officer come to me and tell me that he saw a child almost killed by a parent who was in a school zone and was not paying attention because they were on the phone," he says.
Previous bills to ban texting and driving have failed. One concern is enforcement. Georgia passed a texting and driving ban that took effect on July 1, 2010. Troopers say it's difficult to enforce because they have to prove a driver is texting, but it can be hard to tell if a driver is texting or dialing to make a phone call, which is legal.
Sen. Sheheen says he's heard the concerns about enforcement but says, "The goal is to help encourage behavior and by passing this law we'll encourage behavior that is safer for people on the roadways and, ultimately, that's what we ought to be trying to achieve, not punishing people, not writing more tickets."
The stakes are well-known by now. Columbia driver Ali Banner says a close friend of hers died because he was texting while driving. "He slammed into a light pole, and the light pole fell over. He was texting and driving and the light pole fell over and smashed his car," she says.
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