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No texting in Mount Pleasant while driving

  • Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Texting ban passes in Mount Pleasant.

For the next 30 days, drivers pulled over by police officers for violating the new no texting ban are expected to get a warning.

Mount Pleasant Town Council approved the measure Tuesday night in a 6 to 3 vote.

Violators will be subject to a $50 fine. If a traffic accident is involved, a driver could face an additional fine of up to $200, according to a copy of the ordinance. The measure received initial approval last month on a 6-3 vote.

Councilwoman Thomasena Stokes-Marshall initially presented the idea of placing a ban on hand held electronic devices while driving to Mount Pleasant Town Council in 2011. “We did not have enough support on Council at that time, so it was placed on the back burner,” she said.

This issue was again brought to Council in 2012, at which time Mayor Swails asked council to delay taking any action on this issue until our state legislator ruled on banning hand held device throughout the state of SC. Mayor Swails further indicated that if South Carolina legislators failed to take action; council would bring this item back to Council and that he would then support placing a band on hand held devices.

“During the past two years I have witnessed a significant increase of both adults and teenagers who are using hand held electronic devices while driving,” said Stokes-Marshall. “Recent statistics indicate that the number of accidents resulting from distracted drivers using hand held electronic devices continues to increase. Some would argue that drivers engage in many forms of distractions while driving. They are correct and I am sure that we all engage in some form of activity that may distract from our attention to driving at one time or another. Some folks feel that the government is once again trying to take away their rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Stokes-Marshall said her determination to continue the fight to ban hand held electronic devices while driving has been motivated by her strong belief that as an elected official charged with making decisions and implementing policies and procedures that would serve to provide and ensure a safe environment on town roadways.

“No one drives along our roadway in a vacuum or a bubble. When driving along our roadways, we are all in the public domain and have a moral obligation and responsibility to conduct ourselves in a manner that will not contribute to creating an unsafe or dangerous environment that poses a threat to others who have the same right to occupy our roadways,” she said.

The ordinance prohibits the use of handheld electronic communication devices to draft, transmit or review an email or text by people operating a motor vehicle in the Town of Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant Councilman Ken Glasson voted against the measure. He said he stands by his decision to not support a law that “further intrudes into the lives of our citizens by our government.”

He feels this law will be difficult to enforce at best. He referenced difficulties in other communities where court systems were clogged with objections, fines and citations. “This is no different than a law that, in the form of reckless driving, is already on the books. I still believe this is an issue that should be handled at the state level and not the town. In most instances where this law was enacted the accidents return to the level preceding the ban. I look forward to seeing the statistics six months to a year from today.”

Stokes-Marshall countered by saying, “we are all aware that potential for people to resist change of any kind will always exist. However, there are times when circumstances require change when it is in the best interest of protecting and saving peoples lives. If just one life is saved by a driver who may decide not to send or receive that text message because the Town of Mt. Pleasant has placed a ban on the use of hand held electronic devices, then it was worth the efforts and fight to pass this ordinance.”

She said that police officers “will not be attacking our resident to issue tickets. For the first month, if necessary for our officers to stop a driver who is suspected of using a hand held device while driving, the driver will receive a warning. Additionally, the Town Communications Officer will make every effort to get as much educational information about the ban on hand held device while driving out to our citizens, schools, businesses, and local merchants.”

ordinance:

It prohibits the use of handheld electronic communication devices to draft, transmit or review an email or text by people operating a motor vehicle in Mount Pleasant

What is a handheld electronic communication device?

Telephone

Cell phone

Personal digital assistant

Text messaging device

Email messaging device

A computer or other such instrument that allows a person to wirelessly communicate with another while holding or operating such with the hand

does not apply to:

Law enforcement officer

Firefighter

EMT

Or other public safety official while in the performance of his/her official duties

does not apply to any person using the handheld communication device for:

Voice communication while operating the vehicle

Calling 9-1-1 or other emergency numbers to contact public safety forces

Communication while maintaining a motor vehicle in a stationary and parked position

What are penalties?

• $50 (if the violation does not occur at the time of a traffic accident) for a final cost of $158.70

• $50 – Town of Mount Pleasant

• $53.75 – 107.5 percent SC surcharge

• $25 – Law Enforcement State Surcharge

• $25 – Victim Advocate Fund

• $5 – Criminal Justice Academy State Surcharge

• $200 (if the violation occurs at the time of a traffic accident) for a final cost of • • $470

• $200 – Town of Mount Pleasant

• $215 – 107.5 percent SC surcharge

• $25 – Law Enforcement State Surcharge

• $25 – Victim Advocate Fund

• $5 – Criminal Justice Academy State Surcharge

What the officer will not do:

Stop a person unless the officer has probable cause that a violation has occurred based on the officer’s clear and unobstructed view of a person using a handheld communication device to compose, send or read a text-based communication while driving or operating a motor vehicle upon the public streets and highways of the Town

Seize or require the forfeiture of the handheld electronic device because of the violation

Search or request to search a vehicle, driver or passenger solely because of this violation

Make a custodial arrest for violation of this section

How about public education?

There will be significant public education on the dangers of texting while driving via the town website, PSAs, social media outlets and traditional media outlets (print, TV, radio).

The Mount Pleasant Police Department began last week its public education outreach at Wando High School.

There will be a grace period to allow residents and visitors time to adjust to the new ordinance. Warnings only will be issued during the grace period.

Temporary digital SCDOT signs will routinely be deployed to remind residents of the new anti-texting ban.

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