“That government is best which governs least”, so said Thomas Paine back in our Revolutionary days. His quote came to mind as we debated the bill to ban handheld cell phone usage and texting while driving a motor vehicle.
No one disputes the risk of driving while distracted – whether the driver is texting, talking on a cell phone, smoking, eating, drinking hot coffee, applying makeup, etc. In fact, the risk of driving while distracted has already been codified in our State’s driving laws and can be cited by a police officer at the time of an accident.
However, this general law was not enough for some lawmakers who decided to arbitrarily outlaw two specific types of communication while driving – using a handheld cell phone to talk or text – no matter what the circumstance. They decided that the State could determine road and traffic conditions better than you.
During the debate on this bill, it became apparent that a majority of South Carolina lawmakers really did not care about the safety of other drivers, as they loudly proclaimed at the beginning of the debate. What they cared about was election year posturing. Questions were asked about enforcement issues – in effect, how an officer can tell the difference between someone texting versus someone using their GPS unit or their mp3 player. But these questions were ignored. Also ignored was any discussion about increasing driver education on the dangers of texting versus just banning the act.
At the end of the debate was a bill that outlawed texting while driving (the section banning the use of a cellphone to talk was amended out) with a twenty-five dollar fine if caught. Ultimately, the House accomplished two things – they passed another ineffectual law while further eroding our basic right to communicate with each other.