Photo via EllsworthAirForceBase/Wikimedia.

Photo via EllsworthAirForceBase/Wikimedia.

A bill that would prohibit South Carolina drivers from holding a cell phone in either hand while behind the wheel has been introduced by State Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) with heavy fines for violators. The bill would also ban reading, sending or writing texts.

Taylor filed the legislation (H4480) in December to reduce incidences of distracted driving in the state. The bill that's known as “Driving Under the Influence of an Electronic Device” or “DUI-E” had its first hearing by a transportation and motor vehicles joint subcommittee on Jan. 31.

According to a report in the Aiken Standard, those who testified at the hearing — including AAA Carolinas — endorsed Taylor’s legislation as a step in the right direction.

If the bill passes in its current form, first offenders would face a $100 fine with subsequent violations costing them $300. In addition, two points would be tacked onto the offender’s driver’s license and all violations would be reported to the driver’s insurance company.

Taylor and advocates of his legislation believe current distracted driving laws in South Carolina are ineffective and unenforceable, reports the Aiken Standard. Since 2014, South Carolina has had a ban on texting while driving. However, it carries a nominal $25 fine and requires that police prove the driver is guilty.

At the hearing, Tiffany Wright, president of traffic safety for AAA Carolinas, said the current law is too hard to enforce and too weak to deter drivers from texting. She urged the legislators to support Taylor’s bill as well as increased sanctions.

For South Carolina, the statistics are sobering. As noted in the newspaper report, when Taylor originally drafted the legislation, South Carolina held the top spot for traffic fatalities for every 200 million miles driven. In 2016, 1,015 people died in South Carolina traffic accidents. So far this year, 50 people have died in highway crashes. 

Future hearings for Taylor’s legislation are planned with anticipated testimony from the Department of Motor Vehicles, the public safety department and a statewide motorcycle safety group.