GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – The Hands-Free Act would tighten penalties for drivers using their phones in their hands while on the road.
Dozens of states already have a similar law but South Carolina does not.
And now there’s a push, years in the making, trying to change that.
“It’s real and it can happen in the blink of an eye,” said Kelly Willenberg.
Willenberg’s husband was killed by a driver while bicycling.
“He rode every day. Sleet, snow, freezing rain, you name it, he was out in it,” said Willenberg.
She’s talking about her husband, Dale. This June marks five years since he has been gone.
His life was taken while he was doing something he loved.
“He was a cyclist and he was hit and killed in a hit-and-run cycling accident,” Willenberg told us.
He was hit by a driver who the Spartanburg County Assistant Solicitor said admitted to looking down at his cell phone before the crash.
“20 hours later, I was donating organs because Dale has been pronounced brain dead and the person had turned themselves in a couple hours after that,” Willenberg explained.
Since then, Willenberg has been working tirelessly to make sure a tragedy like this, never happens again. So have other advocates in the state like Amy Johnson-Ely.
“This is something that everyone sees on the roadways, many states have corrected the problem by prohibiting the use of at least holding on to your cellphone with your hand while operating a motor vehicle,” said Amy Johnson-Ely, Executive Director with the Palmetto Cycling Coalition.
Right now, there is no hands free law in South Carolina.
This proposed law would prohibit drivers from using a cell phone in their hands while on the road. If caught, you would face harsher penalties than previously proposed – like up to a $150 fine for the first offense, $300 for the second.
“This year, the difference is it has a little more consequence with teeth, in the form of points off your license if you’re a second or third offender,” Willenberg said.
For Willenberg, her husband’s loss doesn’t get easier. But she’s hoping the senate acts and moves forward with this opportunity to prevent any more innocent lives from being taken too soon.
“I am living proof it can happen to you and I don’t want it to happen to people, what I’ve been through the last five years and what my family has been through, it’s horrific,” said Willenberg.
There would be exceptions to the law, such as if you’re lawfully parked or using voice to text functions.