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September 04, 2012 08:26 PM

Council Approves Texting And Driving Ban

The first texting and driving ban in South Dakota is now a reality. The Sioux Falls City Council passed the ordinance unanimously at its regular meeting Tuesday night.

The ordinance makes texting and driving a primary offense. It means officers can pull you over, and impose a $200 ticket.  Prior to the vote a standing-room-only crowd squared off on both sides of the issue.

“We share a common concern for the safety of our employees and families, customers, students of institutions, and our neighbors,” Rich Lauer said.  He led a group of businesses that pushed for the ban.

“You want to feel good. You want to believe you're doing something. But in reality you're not. You might be making the situation worse,” texting ban opponent Tracy Saboe said.

Discussion over the proposed texting while driving ban took an hour. The ordinance bans composing and sending an electronic message on several electronic devices, including but not limited to cell phones, smart phones, PDAs, and laptops. Council members who wrote up the proposal say it's important for residents' well-being.

“But we still say it's okay to ban drinking and driving. It's also okay to ban texting and driving,” Council Member Michelle Erpenbach told the group during the discussion.

A last-minute amendment removed GPS units from the plan. It also clarified the ordinance to include only handheld devices in the ban.

South Dakota’s state legislators have previously voted down similar efforts for a statewide ban. Sioux Falls' ordinance will take effect 20 days after publication, which means texting while driving will be illegal by the end of the month.

All city council members were present for the vote except for Kermit Staggers.

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