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>Liberty vs. Safety: Driver Texting and REAL ID

12/15/2009

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c/o Columbia Free Times

South Carolina is wading into a couple of divisive liberty vs. safety debates.

One is the issue of whether motorists should be allowed to send texts while driving; the other is whether the state should adopt federal REAL ID standards for driver’s licenses.

Will the state’s traditional hostility to infringement on personal liberties — think of how long it’s taken for smoking bans to take hold, or about how there is no helmet law for adult motorcyclists — carry the day?

Or will the state’s moralistic streak — the one that condones infringements on liberty in terms of gay marriage, blue laws and abortion — win out?

The texting issue has come up because several bills introduced in the State House would ban drivers from the practice, which has been shown in studies to cause distraction.

The REAL ID issue is one that has been around for awhile but has come up again because Gov. Sanford is asking the federal Department of Homeland Security to give South Carolina a pass on the adoption of REAL ID, which passed Congress in 2005 but has lagged in implementation. The adoption of REAL ID involves new security requirements for state driver’s licenses.

REAL ID is seen by the feds as a necessary tool for law enforcement and, more specifically, combatting terrorist plots. Some states, South Carolina among them, have criticized the law as an infringement on personal privacy, not to mention an expensive unfunded mandate.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?


South Carolina’s political culture is one of hostility to many federal initiatives. Is the governor right to take a stand on this, or is he grandstanding?

And what about texting while driving? It’s been proven to cause distraction, but is it worse than other driver habits? And if a law passed, would Sanford veto it like he vetoed an ATV safety bill?

What’s your take? What do you think our state WILL do, and what do you think we SHOULD do on these issues?

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