A bill to ban texting while driving in South Dakota was signed by Governor Dennis Daugaard late last month. Mitchell already has a city texting ban, but the city council is in the process of repealing that ordinance once the new state-wide ban goes into place.
Texting while driving in Mitchell is currently a primary offense, which means law enforcement, can pull over drivers if they are texting behind the wheel; that would change under the state-wide ban. The new law would make it a secondary offense.
Even with the state law being more relaxed, Mitchell City Councilmen Phil Carlson asked for the repeal of the City's ban to be placed on the council's agenda earlier this week. Mitchell put their ban in place so the state would follow suit. Now the state does have that ban, and he thinks it's better for drivers to have universal laws across the entire state.
"Now that the state has implemented a ban it would be nice just to leave one solid law across the state without having to worry about different penalties and different language in each different location," Mitchell City Councilmen Phil Carlson said.
The Council voted 4-2 in favor of the first reading of the repeal. Dave Tronnes was one council person who voted against it. He thinks the signs the city has up now would let drivers know to put their phones away when they're driving in Mitchell.
"We have boards, billboards saying it's against the law in Mitchell that are up already, so people just have to learn," Dave Tronnes said.
Tronnes says he's glad the state put in state-wide ban, but he doesn't think Mitchell needs to repeal its stricter ban to deal with the change.
"I'd rather see the state be tougher and one step further, but they're not and I don't think we should back down. We should keep our law in place," Tronnes said.
Carlson says that Mitchell should repeal its ban because drivers could fight their tickets in court, which could cost the city money.
"There could potentially be some legal issues with it. For instance, somebody gets ticketed under our ban instead of the state ban, there could be a legal fight over that that could go potentially all the way to the South Dakota Supreme Court," Carlson said.
This issue will once again be discussed at the City Council meeting on April 21.
If the repeal does pass, the ban will switch to the state-wide ban once it goes into effect on July 1. The current state-wide law says that if a city has stricter ordinance in place, it overrides the South Dakota ban.