South Carolina motorists who are caught sending or reading text messages while they drive would be fined $25 under legislation that won key House approval this week.
With a 98-18 vote, the House gave second reading to a bill that was criticized as little more than a show, after its fines and penalties were reduced.
“We’ve got a feel-good piece of legislation,” said Republican state Rep. Nathan Ballentine of Irmo before the vote.
Opponents of the measure spent more than hour trying to broaden the list of activities banned while driving, as they also tried to limit the penalties for texting and driving.
Republican state Rep. Kris Crawford of Florence wanted the bill to say people could be ticketed for taking off a jacket, smoking, eating a sandwich or putting on makeup while driving. He also wanted it to include a ban on drivers handling their iPods or laptop computers while behind the wheel.
Those measures were handily rejected. But others were overwhelmingly supported. The bill started with a $100 fine with two driving record points. But amendments cut that to $25, no points and a ban on reporting violations to insurance companies.
And police couldn’t confiscate phones, look through text or e-mail messages or require phone companies to provide them. Nor could they use texting-and-driving stops as a basis to search drivers, passengers or cars.
The legislation will now be sent to the Senate, which is considering its own version.
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