Distracted driving legislation garners approval from S.C. insurance director

January 30, 2019

S.C. Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer is a fan of state Rep. Bill Taylor’s latest distracted driving legislation.

The director on Tuesday told an S.C. House transportation subcommittee he supports House Bill 3355 – “Driving Under the Influence of an Electronic Device,” or DUI-E for short.

During his testimony, Farmer said insurance premiums have increased roughly 8 to 10 percent over the last few years. Distracted driving contributed to that uptick, the director explained.

“We need to drive better,” Farmer said, adding that distracted driving is a societal issue that needs addressing.

Taylor, an Aiken Republican, has said his bill does just that.

DUI-E would, among other things, make it illegal to hold a phone, call, text, email or watch a video while driving. Exceptions are made for first responders and those reporting an emergency or crime.

Phones could still be used via dictation or headset; Taylor on Tuesday said he uses Bluetooth.

In total, the Aiken lawmaker has branded DUI-E as a “Texting 2.0,” a toothier version of South Carolina’s 2014 texting-and-driving ban.

On Tuesday, Taylor said the 2014 law is “absolutely worthless.” He has previously been critical of the law’s fine structure and enforceability.

“I think that driving under the influence of electronics is more deadly than driving under the influence of alcohol,” Taylor said during the subcommittee hearing.

Emphasizing Taylor’s sentiments, Tiffany Wright, representing AAA Carolinas, described a phone in the hands of a driver as a loaded gun.

“Let’s take the gun out of our hands,” Wright said Tuesday.

Ten total lawmakers, Taylor not included, have signed on to the DUI-E bill, according to the Legislature’s website.

“There’s a great deal of interest in this bill,” Taylor said.

Taylor filed a similar distracted driving bill last legislative session. That version was reported out of committee following several hearings but did not advance much farther.