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      SC bill would ban texting while driving

      On Wednesday, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee approved a bill banning texting while driving.

      A bill to ban the controversial practice of texting while driving receives initial approval by a state Senate Judiciary Subcommittee.

      The panel nixed a proposal to ban all hand-held device use while driving.

      According to the National Transportation Safety Administration at any given time, 11% of drivers are using their cell phones.

      Dr. Amit Almor has done extensive research on the subject. The USC Psychology professor has completed two studies on the effects of cell phone usage on the brain.

      When the person that you TMre talking to is not next to you, you have to construct in your mind and keep updating a mental model of that person, says Dr. Amit Almor, so that you know what you talked about, what that person knows, and what you still need to tell them."

      Dr. Almor says the effort required to have a conversation and focus on the roadway is too much for a person to handle. He hasn TMt studied the effects of text messaging on the brain, but says the danger of texting and driving is obvious.

      I think texting is far worse because it clearly takes your eyes off the road, says Dr. Almor. You don TMt need to run scientific experiments to figure that out.

      I text when I TMm at a stoplight or sometimes I will actually pull over to text, says Mark Direzze of Columbia, but I talk on the phone all the time.

      Talking is different than texting, said Erin Minogue of Columbia.

      Dr. Almor agrees both activities are dangerous. He recommends a ban on texting while driving, but not on using a hand-held phone.

      Lawmakers are still working on the bill that would make texting illegal for motorists. The panel has yet to decide on an appropriate fine for violators.

      I think the best thing we can do is really invest in technology that would minimize the risk, said Dr. Almor.