The Daily Gamecock

SC drivers might face texting ban

License point, $45 penalty included in proposed bill

Columbia drivers may have to find safer ways to stay in touch, as a recent bill in South Carolina’s Senate Judiciary Committee aims to outlaw texting while driving.

The proposal, if approved, would institute a behind-the-wheel texting fine of $45, which could increase with court fees and other expenses, as well as a point on one’s license.

Thirty states, Washington D.C. and Guam have already banned typing, sending or reading text messages while driving throughout the U.S., leaving South Carolina behind in the movement to lower the number of fatalities caused by distracted driving. The U.S. Department of Transportation defines distracted driving as something that is “visually, manually and cognitively” distracting. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 18 percent of fatalities in distraction-related crashes involved reports of cell phone use.

With tuition, housing and gas prices on the rise, the proposed $45 fine may deter students from the dangerous activity. But not everyone is happy with it.

”I don’t think [texting] should [be] banned because people should be able to stay in touch, but if [texting] directly results in an accident, that person should be held legally responsible,” said second-year nursing student Scott Coghill.

First-year marine science student Nicole Grafer agrees with the proposed ban and encourages drivers to be held accountable for their potentially fatal decisions.

“Throw the book at them,” Grafer said. “If they’re going to endanger not only their own lives but mine as well, they need to be ticketed. I’m from New Jersey so I’m used to bad driving, but throw in a cell phone and you might as well just call it quits.”

Third-year exercise science student Sam Baker also said he supports the decision to ban texting to improve driving in South Carolina.

“Most people are bad enough at driving without the help of texting to disrupt their focus too. I think that a ban would really help to improve the safety of South Carolina roads,” Baker said.

Advertisements via road signs and television commercials have picked up on the campaign against texting while driving. On Blossom street, a large billboard promotes the slogan, “You Text, You Drive, You Die,” which attempts to shock drivers into refraining from engaging in cell phone use while driving.

Numerous studies are also being conducted nationwide to collect evidence on the dangers of texting while driving. Specifically, Amit Almor, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Linguistics program at USC, has studied the cognitive challenges necessary to maintain proper driving attention and focus on a cellular device.

Currently on sabbatical, Almor strongly advocates the practice of waiting to use a cell phone until the drive has been finished. His research has been reported in New York Times, India Times, MSNBC news and local Columbia newspapers, and recommends not only texting be banned, but also all use of cell phones while driving, including hands-free devices.

Brain imaging studies revealed that focusing on both the road and a cell phone can cause a “brain overload” — worse than those of an intoxicated person behind the wheel.