PROSPERITY — Five seconds at 55 mph equals 100 yards when one does the math of distracted driving.
That’s up to 100 yards when a motorist’s attention is not where his or her vehicle is going.
For Lou Neiger, the mathematical equation also includes subtraction — subtracting the 3,328 people who died in 2012 twrecks that occurred while they were texting and driving.
He recently presented that math to Prosperity Town Council, as he requested the town enact an ordinance banning text messaging while driving within the town limits.
Neiger’s passion for vehicle safety emerged from the crucible of tragic loss.
His son died in a wreck in 2013 and Neiger said he was channelling painful loss into a positive community outreach.
Rather than remain fixated on tragic loss, Neiger said his mission on late his son’s behalf making texting while driving illegal.
Though his personal campaign involves banning texting and driving, texting and driving was not the factor in his son’s death.
An investigation into the accident determined his son was not texting or on his phone at the time of the wreck.
That fact helped him cope with the loss in some ways, he said, though the wounds remain fresh less than a year later.
He plans to speak to the other county municipalities to see if town ordinances banning texting and driving can be passed.
He made the same request of Newberry County Council. At the time of the Prosperity town council meeting, however, Neiger said the county council referred his request to a safety subcommittee and was seeking legal advice.
Neiger noted the City of Greenville passed an ordinance that concerned banning texting and driving. He asked Prosperity to follow Greenville’s lead and mentioned two bills currently before the Legislature that address texting and driving.
After his public comments, Neiger’s request merited serious consideration from town council members.
Vice Chairman Chad Hawkins said he had emailed Sen. Ronnie Cromer about two texting while driving bills.
“I am sorry for your loss and glad you are taking the positive route,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins was concerned with the issue of a law/ordinance being enforceable, however.
Hawkins said he advocated for personal freedoms, but “when someone takes their mind and eyes off of where (they) are going and when that affects the safety of others then (government) would have (a right) to step in.”
Council asked town attorney Henry Bufkin about the legality of cell phone records being made available to law enforcement as evidence in traffic fatalities and in traffic accidents.
Town council agreed to discuss the matter further in terms of the legality and/or enforceability of any potential ordinance banning texting and driving.
In the interim, town council and Prosperity Town Administrator Karen Livingston agreed to consider implementing an employee policy that forbids town employees from texting while driving.
Councilman Mike Hawkins also said he would bring up the matter at the March 31 Newberry County Governmental Association meeting.
The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the Firehouse Conference Center.