A bill that would ban texting and driving for all South Carolina drivers is now headed to the full House floor, after a committee strengthened a Senate bill Tuesday afternoon.
The original Senate bill would ban texting and driving only for drivers with beginner's or restricted licenses. It also would have banned all hand-held cell phone use by all drivers in school zones when the warning lights are flashing, but senators took out that provision.
Rep. Joe Daning, R-Goose Creek, says House members feel strongly that texting and driving should be banned for all drivers, not just new and teen drivers. "I was coming up the Interstate today and a guy just flew past me and he's texting. And I look at him going in the distance and he's just weaving all over the place. If you're on a two-lane road, you're gonna hit somebody," he says.
The bill is expected to pass once it reaches the House floor. Then a conference committee of three senators and three House members will have to work out a final version that both bodies agree on.
One of the biggest differences is the penalties. The House version has a $25 fine for a first offense. The Senate's original bill has a $75 fine and two points on a driver's license.
Rep. Daning says, "I'm not sold on the points, but I think it needs to be more than $25."
The House plan says police would give only warning tickets for the first 180 days after the bill becomes law. An officer would have to see the driver texting and would not be allowed to confiscate the cell phone.
51 states and the District of Columbia already ban texting and driving for all drivers. 37 states and D.C. ban all hand-held cell phone use by new and teen drivers.