Our view

State needs to ban texting and driving

February 23, 2014 

  • In summary

    It is understandable that cities choose to ban texting while driving, but a statewide ban is needed.

Greenville has become the latest city in the state to ban texting while driving. It’s high time the Legislature banned this practice statewide.

The Greenville City Council voted earlier this month to ban texting while driving in the city limits. The ban, which takes effect April 1, applies to any texting while operating a vehicle, even while stopped in traffic or at a stoplight.

Some opponents argued that the ban would cause more accidents as everyone tries to pull over to text. We have an answer for that: Wait until you’re out of the car.

Opponents also argued that the ban could hurt economic activity, infringe on people’s rights and give police too many reasons to stop motorists. Those sound similar to the lame arguments made by opponents of a statewide ban.

We sympathize with Greenville and about a dozen other South Carolina cities that have enacted bans on texting while driving. They clearly have the best interests of their citizens at heart.

Unfortunately, this has created a patchwork of bans that is confusing to motorists. They have no easy way of knowing whether or not texting is legal in the city in which they are driving.

That is all the more reason to enact a statewide ban.

All but 10 states outlaw texting and driving for all drivers. All but three at least ban texting by minors behind the wheel.

That, of course, means South Carolina ranks among the three states that does nothing to prevent texting while driving by anyone.

Total or partial bans have been introduced in the Legislature. But all have failed because of arguments that they somehow are too intrusive.

We’re sure those same critics would be quick to object if someone were to suggest that drunken driving laws are too intrusive. Yet the National Highway Traffic Safety Council says that texting while behind the wheel is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

Studies indicate that teen drivers now are more likely to die in a texting-related accident than one involving drunken driving. And four out of five college students confess to texting while driving.

The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis reports that texting in cars and trucks causes more than 3,000 deaths and 330,000 injuries per year. Drivers distracted by texting are 23 times more likely to get into an accident than a non-texting driver.

It is understandable that concerned cities such as Greenville would decide to tackle this problem in the absence of any action by the Legislature. But uniform statewide rules are needed.

Lawmakers at least need to enact a ban for young drivers, who are more accident prone even when they aren’t trying to text behind the wheel. But a texting ban for all drivers would be more appropriate.

When friends drink, we take away their keys. We should do the same, in effect, with their cell phones.

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