The Columbia City Council has unanimously approved a ban on sending cellphone text messages while driving in the city limits.
The law took effect immediately after Tuesday night’s vote. But Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott said his officers will wait about 30 days before they begin writing tickets.
“The important part is to educate the community,” Scott said.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the new law:
Q. Can I still talk on the phone while driving?
Q. What about email? Facebook? Twitter?
A. No. The law says you cannot “compose, send or read a text-based communication” while driving in Columbia. That includes social media and email.
Q. My phone has a voice-activated text messaging feature. Is that legal?
A. Yes. As long as you are not reading it or typing it, it’s legal.
Q. I don’t remember phone numbers, so I look them up in my phone. Is that against the law?
A. No. The law specifically exempts people searching their phone for contact information.
Q. My phone has a GPS feature that I use all the time while driving. Will that get me in trouble?
A. No. The law also specifically exempts activating “an internal feature or function of the device.” That includes GPS features.
Q. What if I’m stuck at a train on Assembly Street? Or stuck in traffic at Malfunction Junction? Or stopped at a red light?
A. That’s fine. You are allowed to text while “lawfully parked or stopped.” Just be sure to put your phone away once you start moving again.
Q. Will the police arrest me if I’m caught texting and driving?
A. No. The police also cannot take your phone, and they cannot search, or ask to search, you, your car or any of your passengers. But that rule only applies if the police are stopping you only for texting.
Q. So, what happens if I’m caught?
A. You get a $100 ticket. However, that’s just the fine. You’ll also have to pay court costs and processing fees, bringing the total to $237.50.
City of Columbia Districts map
Bold broken lines outline Columbia city limits where the texting ban is in effect.