By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)———————————–This week, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed into law a statewide texting ban. This law states a driver cannot text while their vehicle is moving on any highway in South Carolina. This new law does supersede the recently passed Distracted Driving Ordinance that was passed by Oconee County Council. This means that legally, you can talk with a cellphone in your hand while driving. However, Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw still wants to remind motorists of the dangers of distracted driving.
The Distracted Driving Ordinance that was previously in effect and which was passed by Oconee County Council on April 15th stated that an individual could not text or talk on a cell phone or other portable electronic communication device in a vehicle that was in motion on a public highway without the use of a hands free device. If the vehicle was stopped or stationary, for instance at traffic light or legally parked, then an individual could talk or text without the use of a hands free device. Once again, this ordinance is no longer in effect with the legislature passing this new law.
Under provisions of the new No Texting Ban passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Haley, an individual cannot compose, send or view a text message while their vehicle is in motion on a public road or highway. In regards to law enforcement, an officer cannot stop an individual under the new law unless the officer has probable cause based on a clear and unobstructed view that the person operating the vehicle was indeed texting, reading a text, or sending a text. An officer cannot ask to see or search or view or require an individual to relinquish their phone because of a violation or search the vehicle or individuals in a vehicle based on this violation or make an arrest upon a violation of the No Texting Ban unless that individual has an outstanding warrant. For the first 180 days after the Governor’s signature, officers can only issue warning tickets. Once that passes, fines will range from $25 for first offenses to $50 for subsequent offenses and violations will not be reported to insurance companies and there will be no fees, assessments or surcharges on the tickets that are issued.
Distracted driving continues to be a serious issue around the country. Oconee County is no exception. Sheriff Mike Crenshaw cautions citizens that even though you can talk while driving with a cell phone in your hand, this still at times takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, and your mind off the task of driving.
The Sheriff’s Office encourages everyone to drive hands free. It will decrease your chances of being involved in an accident and make our highways safer for everyone. Parents with children just getting their driver’s license should look at investing in a hands free device to use with a cell phone. These devices range in price from approximately $20.00 to $75.00. This small investment could save a life from a tragic fatal accident.
Dialing someone’s telephone number while you are driving takes a few seconds. This takes a driver’s eyes off the road. At 55 mph, if we take our eyes off the road for just over 4 seconds, this is like driving the length of a football field blindfolded.
Sheriff Crenshaw has mandated through policy that all deputies drive hands free in relation to cell phone use.