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‘DUI-E’: Bill pre-filed in S.C. House aims to crack down on distracted driving

December 21, 2018

The so-called “Driving Under the Influence of an Electronic Device” bill is back.

The anti-distracted-driving legislation, abbreviated to DUI-E, was recently pre-filed in the S.C. House.

State Reps. Bill Taylor, Rita Allison, Jason Elliott, Edward Tallon, William Cogswell and John McCravy are sponsoring the bill, which has been referred to the education and public works committee.

Taylor is an Aiken Republican who, at the last legislative session, filed a similar distracted driving bill. It was reported out of committee following a handful of hearings and endorsements, but did not make it much farther.

“We had a good run at determining the obstacles,” Taylor said Wednesday, discussing last session’s efforts. “The bill was perfected because of the input.”

This latest DUI-E bill would, if enacted, shake up the state’s 2014 texting-and-driving law. Taylor deemed it “sort of a ‘Texting 2.0.’”

DUI-E would make it illegal for drivers to hold a phone, call, text, email or watch a video while driving. The bill would also make it illegal to reach for a phone in an unsafe manner.

Violators would, as it stands now, face a $25 fine.

“This bill does not include any additional fines or points on the license or anything like that,” Taylor said. “That was all not included for this reason: It’s my firm belief they will be included, but that will be a committee process.”

“I fully expect amendments be made to it to enhance the fines,” Taylor said in a follow-up interview Thursday.

If DUI-E isn’t beefed up as it makes its way through the legislative pipeline, he’ll do it himself: “I will amend the bill to put some teeth into it,” the representative said.

Taylor’s previous DUI-E bill featured a $100 fine on first offense. Subsequent offenses meant a $300 fine.

The pre-filed bill – H. 3355 – does permit use of a phone via dictation or headset. A person can use their phone if stopped on the side of the road or lawfully parked, as well. Exemptions are also made for first responders, utility workers and for those reporting crimes or emergencies, among other things.

DUI-E prohibits police from searching or seizing a driver’s phone in relation to a distracted driving citation.

Texting – emailing, calling, so on – and driving would not be a criminal offense, and violations would not be reported to a driver’s insurance carrier. But the bill does require the state’s public safety department to keep related statistics.

Last year, Taylor said his distracted driving bill would be a conversation starter, one that was desperately needed. This year, Taylor said the same thing.

“I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again … this is an issue where the people are far ahead of the Legislature,” Taylor said, later adding: “This is a real clear solution to a very deadly problem.”

A sweeping distracted driving law went into effect in neighboring Georgia – don’t hold your phone there – earlier this year. Taylor said he worked closely with Georgia officials in the run-up to this bill.

Both Taylor and lawmakers in Georgia have expressed hope that the respective distracted driving crackdowns will save lives.

“We all see the problem,” Taylor said of distracted driving, which he has previously described as an epidemic. “You don’t have to explain the problem.”

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