South Carolina bills target traffic violators, ticketing

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, January 22, 2015

Multiple South Carolina lawmakers have introduced bills that cover issues that include safety on the state’s roadways.

Concern about speed traps spurred Rep. Jimmy Bales, D-Richland, to take up pursuit of a rule change to prohibit municipal speeding ordinances that do not follow the state’s uniform traffic code.

Bales initially brought up the issue one year ago following a state attorney general opinion that said speeding ordinances in the tiny town of Turbeville and others like it are invalid.

According to reports, Turbeville Police enforce the town’s own speeding law that does not adhere to state code. As a result, fines in the town with a population of about 800 that is located off highways 301 and 378 can exceed citation amounts authorized by the state by several hundred dollars.

Bales’ bill, H3008, would adopt a rule that local governments are forbidden from enacting provisions that conflict with the state’s uniform traffic code.

Sens. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, and Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, are behind a bill that would get tough with people who drive recklessly through work zones. Specifically, it would create the offense of endangerment of a highway worker.

Dubbed “Peanut’s Law,” S199 would impose fines for actions that include speeding through a work zone and failure to obey traffic control devices to anywhere between $500 and $1,000. If it is determined that someone was injured due to a driver’s actions, violators would face up to $2,000 fines. Incidents resulting in death to highway workers carry up to $5,000 fines.

Offenders would also face jail time ranging from 30 days to 10 years, based on the severity of injuries caused. Escalating vehicle points would also be added to affected drivers’ licenses.

The bill is named for Kenneth “Peanut” Long Jr. The 21-year-old man was killed on Aug. 12, 2013, after being struck by a speeding driver in a road work zone. Long was a flag man for a road project in Williamsburg County.

Another bill targets impaired drivers. Sponsored by Rep. Stephen Goldfinch Jr., H3061 would add a $250 surcharge to convictions for operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The bill would route revenue into the state non-federal aid highway fund.

A separate bill would get tough with drivers who cannot provide proof of insurance when prompted by law enforcement. H3232 would require that affected drivers have their vehicle impounded in addition to fines levied for failure to provide either paper or electronic insurance documentation.

J. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, has introduced two bills that cover ticketing policies.

H3134 would prohibit law enforcement from placing a driver under arrest when he or she is charged with certain traffic offenses that result in a uniform traffic ticket being issued. Police would also be forbidden to stop a vehicle for simply having an inoperable vehicle lamp.

H3129 outlaws driving without a well-functioning speedometer. People cited for driving a vehicle up to 20 mph in excess of the posted speed limit would receive a separate $25 ticket for failure to maintain a well-functioning speedometer.

The bills await consideration in multiple committees.

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