Port Royal unanimously passes texting while driving ordinance - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Port Royal unanimously passes texting while driving ordinance

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PORT ROYAL, SC (WTOC) -

It is now illegal to text and drive anywhere in Beaufort County.

The town of Port Royal became the county's final community to pass a texting ban after Thursday night's unanimous vote.

Drivers will have the next 30 days to get familiar with it before police officers start issuing tickets.

The town of Port Royal only has a population of about 10,000 people, but it's home to one of the busiest roads in Beaufort County.

"Ribaut Road does about 30,000 cars a day. It's the major corridor bringing traffic from Lady's Island to Bluffton to Hilton Head, Hilton Head, Bluffton, back to Lady's Island everyday, including the traffic off and on," said Van Willis, Port Royal Town Manager.  

Starting on Feb. 8, Port Royal Police officers will have the authority to issue tickets to anyone caught texting while driving.

"We're also seeing a lot of trending of accidents or what we thought were supposed drunken driving incidents were actually people texting while driving," said Willis.  

Port Royal's ordinance is modeled after the one in place on Hilton Head and Beaufort County.

Drivers are not allowed to use cell phones or other handheld devices to "review, compose or send messages" while behind the wheel. But there is a grace period.

"Next 30 days after our officers familiarize themselves with the ordinance, they'll be issuing public contact warnings only for first time offenders," said Deputy Chief Ron Wekenmann, Port Royal Police Department.

They say the ultimate goal is not to penalize drivers.

"We're not out here just to write tickets or anything, we're out here to educate them and create a better environment for the people of Port Royal," added Wekenmann.  

The penalty for texting while driving in Beaufort County starts at $100 and up to $300 for the third and subsequent offenses.

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