Miss South Carolina Brooke Mosteller has thrown her tiara into the political ring.
Following in the footsteps of her uncle, Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, Mosteller joined scores of pageant contestants at the Statehouse on Wednesday to petition lawmakers to ban texting while driving.
South Carolina is one of two remaining states that have no laws against texting while driving.
“Montana is the other state and they are about a fourth of our population and four times our size,” Mosteller said. “Their roads cannot be as nearly crowded as ours. We’ve got more people and less room so it is more a dire situation I would argue in our state today.”
Mosteller said texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drunk driving and is the leading cause of death for American teens.
According to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, an estimated 3,000 teen deaths and 300,000 teen injuries happen annually across the US. In comparison, drunk driving accounts for 2,700 teen deaths each year.
Brook Sill, Miss South Carolina Teen 2013, said, “People fear many threats to the lives of young people such as guns, drugs (and) predators but simple math tells us that more teens are killed and injured from texting and driving than all of those combined.”
The House and Senate passed differing versions of the ban last month. The legislation is in response to confusion created by 19 municipalities and two counties that have enacted varying local bans.
The House version would impose a $25 fine for drivers caught handling a “wireless electronic communication device” to read, write or send a text. Violators could face a $50 fine if is proven they were texting more than once. However police would be prohibited from viewing phones. Texting while parked, stopped or in case of an emergency would still be permitted.
The Senate version sought to ban all hand-held use of a cellphone by drivers with a beginner’s or restricted license except when parked, stopped or in case of an emergency. It also would ban hand-held use of a cellphone by all drivers within active school zones. Violators would face fines starting at $75 that subsequently increase by $100 upon each additional offense as well as court costs and $25 fee to the Trauma Care Fund.
“This is the year that we will accomplish what we have been trying to accomplish over the last four years,” said Rep. Phil Owens, R-Easley. “We are going to marry these two bills and we are going to accomplish what South Carolina needs very desperately.”
Earlier in the day, a subcommittee heard testimony from Mosteller and Sill before striking-and-inserting language into the Senate bill to reflect the House version.