Greenville drivers start to put phones down as law takes effect - FOX Carolina 21

Greenville drivers start to put phones down as law takes effect

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One of more than 30 signs reminding drivers of the new distracted driving ban. (File/FOX Carolina) One of more than 30 signs reminding drivers of the new distracted driving ban. (File/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Tuesday was the first day drivers in Greenville could be stopped by police if they're seen behind the wheel holding a phone.

Passed in February, the city of Greenville is working to keep cell phones, GPS and other electronic devices out of the hands of drivers through its new distracted driving ban.

Unless your device is hands-free or your car is legally parked, drivers not wanting to face a $100 fine for the first offense should avoid holding or using their phones and GPS while on the road.

But on Tuesday, officers were only warning drivers of the new law. Police said they issued 16 warnings by Tuesday night. To help drivers know when they are in the city limits, officials put up 33 signs across town that remind drivers of the ban.

The law allows drivers to use their devices while driving as long as it is hands-free, through a speaker phone, Bluetooth, or mounted holder. Click here to see more dos and don'ts for the distracted driving ordinance.

Curious if you can dial, accept an incoming call or end a call while behind the wheel? The law says it is OK as long it's hands-free and your device is secured in a holder and you do not hold the device in your hand to manipulate the keyboard or the screen.

If you're stopped at a light or in traffic, unless you are using your device hands-free, you cannot use it. You can only hold your phone or other mobile device in your hand(s) to use it when you are legally parked.

According to Greenville police, the law can be enforced on public property in addition to roadways. Greenville police spokesperson Johnathan Bragg said the law would allow officers to issue tickets in public parking lots (accessible to the public rather than private, restricted lots) and public parking garages.

However, he said police are focused on enforcing the law along roadways where people are driving while using their devices.

There are a few exceptions to the law. The ordinance includes an exemption that allows a driver to use a hand-held device to report a crime (such as a suspected drunk driver) or to report an emergency situation to the appropriate authorities.

Public safety personnel such as police, firefighters, ambulance drivers and other emergency medical services personnel are allowed to use a hand-held device while driving as long as they are using it to perform their official duties.

Additionally, the law does not apply to the use of devices such as direct connect, two-way, push button activated voice radios.

Drivers who violate the law can be stopped by officers, as the distracted driving ban is considered a primary offense. The penalty is a fine of up to $100, plus court costs. The fine increases for second and third violations.

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