COLUMBIA, SC — South Carolina took a big step banning texting while driving statewide when lawmakers agreed to a compromise Tuesday.
A conference committee of House and Senate members decided to adopt the House version of the bill Tuesday that would supersede bans passed in 19 cities and two counties -- including Columbia, Greenville and Charleston -- once the bill is signed by Gov. Nikki Haley.
Drivers could not text while on public roads even if they are idling at a light or a stop sign. They would have to park or use a hands-free device. Exceptions also include using a global-positioning system or trying to get emergency help.
Texting while driving is banned in 43 states, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Once it becomes law in South Carolina, police would issue warnings for 180 days before issuing tickets.
"We're slowly moving on this," said Sen. Luke Rankin, a Horry Republican who chairs the conference committee. "We'll give people time on this."
Fines then will be are $25 for a violation and no more than $50 for multiple violations. Police can pull over drivers for a texting violation alone.
Drivers will not be assessed penalty points on their license and the tickets will not be included on their state records or reported to their insurers.
Lawmakers wanted the penalties to mimic those issued for not wearing a seat belt.
We lead with a carrot and not a stick, Rankin said.
Legislators are checking to see if they can add the Senate version of the bill that would ban any use of electronics by drivers with beginner's permit, conditional driver's license, or special restricted driver's license.
If they can't, they will sign off on the statewide texting ban alone, Rankin said.