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Still texting while driving in Beaufort?
You have 60 days to cut it out.
Beaufort City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday night banning all drivers from texting while driving, and drivers under 18 from using a cell phone while behind the wheel within city limits.
The ordinance, however, will not be enforced for 60 days to allow time for an educational campaign to take place. City manager Scott Dadson said police chief Matt Clancy and public information officer John Williams are working on the plan, but did not have details Tuesday night.
Clancy recommended the campaign after talking to colleagues in other cities and states with similar bans.
Drivers who break the law would be cited and face fines starting at $50 and increasing to $150 for repeated violations, according to the ordinance.
A proposed statewide ban failed to pass the S.C. Senate before the General Assembly adjourned in June.The statewide ban passed in the House of Representatives and would have made it illegal for drivers under 18 to talk on their cellphones or text while driving, and criminalized cellphone use for all drivers in construction and school zones. Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. wrote the Beaufort ordinance, which is based on that version.
The Beaufort Police Department does not have statistics on local crashes involving texting, but it is a nationally recognized problem, Clancy said. The National Safety Council estimated that about 21 percent of crashes in 2010 involved drivers talking on the phone, and another 3 percent involved texting.
Beaufort joins six other towns and cities across the state -- Clemson, Walhalla, West Union, Columbia, Camden and Sumter -- that have banned texting while driving.
The ban does not apply to GPS and similar devices or to on-duty police, firefighters and other emergency workers. Beaufort police cruisers are equipped with computers. Drivers of all ages are allowed to report emergencies or call 911.
A police officer would have to clearly see a driver texting or typing before stopping him or her for violating the ordinance.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonBeaufort.