By Liz Segrist
Published Sept. 25, 2013
The city of Charleston approved a ban Tuesday on drivers using handheld electronic communication devices for texting or other visual-manual tasks while behind the wheel.
Drivers will no longer be able to use a handheld communication device to read or compose texts and emails, play games, use a digital assistant or type on a computer — among other uses — while driving.
“Viewing, taking or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving email, text messages, or other electronic data” will not be permitted under the new ordinance.
Charleston City Council unanimously approved first reading of the ordinance, which mirrors the ban Mount Pleasant recently approved. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said he wanted the ordinances to be similar for the many residents who travel between the areas every day.
“City Council finds that it is in the best interest of the citizens, visitors and residents using the city’s public rights of way to take action to improve the safety of our streets by prohibiting the use of handheld electronic communication devices for texting by those operating a motor vehicle in the city of Charleston,” the ordinance reads.
Riley wants a statewide ban on texting while driving.
“We had been waiting on the state of South Carolina to act on this matter,” Riley said in an email to council earlier this month. “Since that has not happened, I believe that it is important that we move forward on the issue.”
The ordinance would not apply to drivers who are lawfully parked or stopped. Using voice-operated technology and making emergency calls will be exempt from the ban. GPS systems must have the addresses typed in before driving and use voice assistance while moving.
Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and other public safety officials will also be exempt from the ban while performing their jobs.
Some council members were skeptical about the ability to enforce the ban. Officers need a clear and unobstructed view of a person’s use of these devices while driving to issue a citation, according to the ordinance.
Each violation will cost the offending driver $100. No driver’s license points would be added.
Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.