The South Carolina House has given key passage to legislation that would prohibit text messaging while driving.
Positions on the issue were all over the board, from the original legislation banning texting as well as hand-held cell usuage, to an amendment which would only ban the practices for the youngest drivers.
Lexington County Republican Nikki Haley’s amendment would have prohibited texting and cell usage but only for those 18 and under. She asserted that there are plenty of other distractions awaiting drivers aside from using a cell phone. Haley says both cell phone usage or texting would be difficult for authorities to enforce.
(Haley on texting MP3 7:30)
Lawmakers tabled Haley’s amendment on a 74-30 vote.
The legislation, which passed on a 98 to 18 vote, carries a fine of $25 but no point violations. It began with a $100 fine and two points. Final reading is expected today(Thursday). The Senate is working on similar legislation.
House members were vocal on whether to delete the cell phone ban from the bill, but Democrat Robert Brown’s amendment passed on a voice vote that seemed almost split.
Aiken County Republican Don Smith, who chairs the subcommittee that handled the proposal, asserted that texting while driving is not just dangerous for teens, but for adults as well.
Republican Kris Crawford of Florence made his point against the legislation with several interesting amendments, including ones that would have fined drivers for eating while driving or operating an iPod music player.
Laurend County Republican Mike Pitts, a retired Greenville police officer, who was not in favor of banning hand-held cell phones, asked House members how many of them use their cell phones to talk to their constiuents, when they’re driving home from the Statehouse.
House Speak Bobby Harrell issued a statement after the Wednesday’s vote was taken that teen drivers are the most avid cell phone users and the most inexperienced drivers on the road. He says the combination of the two is a formula for disaster. Harrell says multiple studies have demonstrated the dangers of distracted driving, showing that it’s more hazardous than drunk driving.