Mount Pleasant texting ban passes in 6-3 vote

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- Drivers who try to sneak in a quick text or type directions in their phones while driving risk being fined in Mount Pleasant.

The Mount Pleasant Town Council on Tuesday night banned mobile devices while driving in a 6-3 vote.

A second reading of the ordinance last month spelled out a ban that meant no texting, no calling, no searching for directions when people are behind the wheel of a car. However, at present town officials focused on texting and emailing while driving in the just-passed ordinance.

Officials on Wednesday said that typing anything into a mobile device would be considered illegal, including emails, texts, and social media sites. However, dialing a phone number would be acceptable.

The message is already being taken to area high school. School resource officers at Wando High School spent part of their day informing students and teachers about the new law.

Mayor Billy Swails said the ordinance would go into effect immediately, but signs noting the new ordinance might not be up until next year. For now, police will only issue warnings during an indefinite public education period.

"The ordinance will read 'no handheld devices while you're driving,'" said Thomasena Stokes-Marshall, the town's mayor pro tempore during last month's reading of the ordinance. For drivers caught using their phones, they face a $50 fine for the first offense. For people using a handheld device at the time of an accident, they face an additional $200 fine. Bluetooth or hands free devices are still acceptable, but many people have GPS units in their cars now. As long as it's sitting on a dashboard. The proposed ban follows a national trend. Just this spring the U.S. Department of Transportation released a study showing that every minute 660,000 Americans are using their handheld devices while driving. In 2011 alone, more than 3,000 people were killed in accidents involving a distracted driver.