A new ordinance took effect in Greenville Tuesday that bans texting, navigating, or talking on a cell phone or other handheld device while driving, unless using a hands-free version.
Under the city law, drivers must pull off the road before picking up a phone or GPS. The hands-free ban also applies to motorcycles, mopeds and bikes. The fine for violators is $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within a year and up to $300 for a third offense. A judge could confiscate the device after a third offense.
The Greenville City Council passed the ban back in February.
Greenville Police spokesman Jonathan Bragg said officers will enforce the law immediately. “It’s going to be like any other traffic violation,” he said Monday. “For (an officer) to stop a vehicle, they have to see a person on a handheld device. That will give them the probable cause to do the traffic stop. At that point, we have instructed them that it is up to their discretion to write a ticket or a warning. We’re not instructing them either way.”
It’s unclear how well the law will be enforced. The larger cities of Columbia and Charleston already have existing bans against texting behind the wheel, but rarely issue tickets, according to residents. In those cities, it is still legal to use a handheld cell phone while driving and an officer must have a clear and unobstructed view of a driver typing on a handheld device before pulling them over.