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No texting or emailing in Greer beginning July 1

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Texting and e-mailing becomes illegal for drivers operating a moving vehicle in Greer beginning July 1.
 

Texting and e-mailing becomes illegal for drivers operating a moving vehicle in Greer beginning July 1.

 

Texting and e-mailing becomes illegal for drivers operating a moving vehicle in Greer beginning July 1. Greer City Council passed, 5-2, second and final reading with one amendment to the ordinance Tuesday night.

Councilwoman Judy Albert (District Six) proposed the ordinance during city council’s annual winter retreat. The only change on the original ordinance, suggested by Albert Tuesday, changed No. 4 under Exceptions to allow only texting by “the use of voice-operated technology”.

Council members Jay Arrowood and Wryley Bettis stayed with their no vote from the first reading on April 8. Lee Dumas voted for the measure Tuesday, changing from his no vote.

A violation of the ordinance can be a fine of $100 or 30 days in jail or both together with court costs.

Greenville has a ban on the use of cell phones and other handheld devices for texting, talking, emailing and viewing websites while driving within the city limits. It went into effect April 1.

Arrowood inquired about tabling the vote until the South Carolina legislature could decide on a statewide bill on distracted driving. Both the House and Senate passed their version earlier this month. However, Albert pushed council to vote for the Greer ordinance and adjust if and when the legislature agreed on a bill.

The House’s bill would ban texting and driving for all drivers, but the fine would be only $25 and no points on a driver's record. The Senate’s version would ban all hand-held cell phone use, but only for drivers with a beginner's or restricted license. The fine would be $75. The Senate’s bill includes a $25 dollar surcharge that would go to the State's Trauma Care Fund.

Randi Jones, Holly Watson and Jackson Batson spoke during the public forum.

Jones said: “I am not against the ordinance now as it is written. While the constitutional issue is still in question I would like to wait before this is passed.” Jones also stated her displeasure for the consent section in the ordinance giving the arresting officer, with probable cause that the driver has violated this section, may request consent to view the mobile telephone transmitting or receiving device upon which the violation occurred.

Dumas questioned Greer Police Chief Dan Reynolds on that section with Reynolds saying, “If given consent we can take the phone but it must be under some extraordinary circumstances.”

Reynolds acknowledged enforcing the texting ban would be difficult. “There will be other factors for us to make a stop,” he said. “There may be some lane changes or the driver will have some other kind of driving infraction that will cause us to pull the driver over.”

Watson, a member of a hospital trauma team, encouraged council to approve the ordinance without any amendments.

Jackson Batson, who spoke against the ordinance on April 8, told council he objected to drivers being stopped for suspicion of texting and “being presumed guilty instead of innocent. If passed there shouldn’t be any exceptions,” Batson said of law enforcement appearing to get a pass on using their hand-held cell phones for texting and talking. The ordinance states the exception for emergency personnel applies solely to mobile data terminals. Reynolds said the GPD's policy prohibits use of personal cellphones.

Bettis remained firm that passage of the ordinance, “is another step in the loss of a personal freedom.”

Arrowood emphasized more education to alert drivers on the hazards of texting and driving. “I think we are better served if we use our resources to educate drivers how to get out of a bad situation."

Clarification: The ordinance states emergency personnel are allowed the use of mobile data terminals and the Greer Police Department has a policy prohibiting employees the use of cellphones while on duty.

 

 

 

 

 

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