Effort to ban cell-phone use for young drivers planned in South Carolina

| 10/25/2006

Teenage drivers in South Carolina won't be allowed to use their cell phones if a state lawmaker gets his way.

Rep. Lanny Littlejohn, R-Pacolet, said he will file a bill later this year to prohibit teens under age 18 from chatting while they are behind the wheel. It could be considered during the regular session that begins in January.

Littlejohn told The State newspaper he initially sought to extend the ban to all drivers, but opposition from communications companies caused him to scale back his effort.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol reports that since 2002 there have been 424 traffic collisions in the state in which cell-phone use was indicated as a primary contributing factor. The wrecks killed one person and injured 191 others, according to the patrol.

Opponents of cell-phone restrictions say studies have shown drivers are more distracted by operating the stereos in their vehicles than by such activities as eating or using the phone. Others would rather pursue alternative methods to cut down on distractions.

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said he would rather increase funding for state troopers to crack down on distracted drivers.

That could apply if the driver is crossing the center line, reading a book or newspaper, eating, drinking or talking while driving, Martin told the newspaper.

Currently, about 10 states forbid young drivers to use phones while behind the wheel.

Only Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have bans on all drivers from using hand-held phones. In 2008, California is slated to implement their own rule that will prohibit all drivers from talking on hand-held phones while driving.

- By Keith Goble, State Legislative Editor