COLUMBIA, S.C. -South Carolina lawmakers gave their final approval Wednesday afternoon to a compromise plan to ban texting and driving statewide. The bill now goes to Gov. Nikki Haley's desk.
The vote in the House was 94-2, while the vote in the Senate was 42-2.
The bill would ban texting and driving for all drivers in the state. The Senate's version would have banned it only for drivers with a beginner's or restricted license, but senators agreed to the House language banning it for all drivers.
Drivers would be allowed to text if they're legally stopped, which, according to the Department of Public Safety, means pulled off on the side of the road or stopped at a stop light. They could also text for emergency help, or use a GPS system.
The fine would be $25, which is lower than the Senate's version, which also included points on your license. But Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, who chaired the committee that worked out the compromise, "It should be a policy of encouragement and not punishment, thus the no-point violation, nominal fine."
The bill would also get rid of the local texting-and-driving bans already in place in 19 cities and two counties across the state.
Rep. Phil Owens, R-Pickens, who helped work out the compromise, says, "We heard from constituents that were confused as they drove around the state and actually on one side of the street you had one non-texting and driving ordinance and on the other side of the street it may be entirely different."
For the first six months after the bill becomes law, police and troopers will issue only warning tickets. After that, a first ticket for texting while driving can be erased by attending a texting and driving education class.
South Carolina will join 43 other states and the District of Columbia that already ban texting and driving for all drivers.