S.C. proposal: text & drive, go to prison

rep bowen text messaging bill sponsorThe nation’s toughest sanctions against driving and text messaging have been proposed in South Carolina.

House Bill 4189 calls for fines of up to $2,500, two months in jail and a driver’s license suspension. And that’s for the first offense.

A driver who kills someone while text messaging is looking at 25 years in prison.

The legislation would also allow law officers to seize and inspect a driver’s cell phone to if he or she was texting while driving when they were stopped. That provision, no doubt, would face opposition from civil liberties advocates.

Rep. Don Bowen, R-Anderson, on Tuesday prefiled the legislation for South Carolina’s next session. The state currently has no limits on motorists’ use of cell phones or text messaging devices, and last year’s legislative efforts regard distracted driving were unsuccessful.

Here’s what Bowen (pictured) proposes for drivers who text message while driving:

A driver who is text messaging without causing bodily injury or death would be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, faces these penalties:

  • First offense: Imprisoned up to 60 days, fined up to $2,500, with a license suspension of one year. Must complete an eight-hour defensive driving course. Trial in either municipal or magistrate court.
  • Second offense: Imprisoned up to 180 days, fined up to $5,000 with a license suspension of two years.
  • Third or subsequent offense: Imprisoned up to three years, fined up to $10,000 with the driver’s license permanently revoked.

If bodily injury occurs as a result of driving while texting, the offender is charged with a felony and, upon conviction, would be imprisoned not less than five years and not more than 15 years.

If a death occurs as a result, the text messaging driver is charged with a felony and, upon conviction, would be imprisoned not less than 10 years and not more than 25 years.

Bowen was not immediately available but handsfreeinfo.com has requested comment from the representative.

The new term will be his second in the South Carolina Legislature. He bills himself as “Your conservative Republican choice” and has vowed not to smoke or drink while in the capital or doing legislative business.

Legislation calling for the impeachment of Gov. Mark Sanford could take up much of the Legislature’s time this next session.

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