South Carolina could become the last state in the South to approve a ban on texting while driving.
A bill that outlaws sending “LOL,” “Where u want to eat” and “Coming home” messages while the wheels are rolling is headed to the state Senate floor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the ban Tuesday, responding to an issue that lawmakers say they hear about often from voters.
“People back home are baffled why we don’t have a law banning texting and driving,” state Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, said during the committee hearing.
The committee also approved a ban on drivers with beginner’s permits or restricted driver’s licenses from using a mobile phone while traveling.
South Carolina is the only state in the South without a texting ban, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Only a handful of states, including Arizona and Texas, allow texting while driving for most drivers.
Over the past four years, previous efforts to penalize texting while driving statewide have failed to pass. In the meantime, some cities -- including Columbia and Greenville -- have passed texting bans.
As a result, drivers can violate local texting laws while riding on different blocks of the same road depending on the location of city boundaries, including the Harbison area.
“We need to pass a state law where everyone knows what the rules are,” said Senate Judiciary chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens.
The bill includes a $100 fine for the first offense, a $200 fine for the second violation within 10 years, and a $300 fine and a two-point drivers’ record penalty for the third ticket.
First-time violators can take a distracted-driving class to remove the fine.