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State-Wide Texting Ban Moves Forward

February 10, 2014, 6:30 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

State-Wide Texting Ban Moves Forward

South Dakota House committee members who voted against a state-wide texting ban last year passed a similar bill Monday.

After debating the bill last week and Monday, members of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the bill.

It would make texting while driving a secondary offense, similar to the seat belt law. So drivers would have to commit another violation before being pulled over by an officer.

Some opposed that portion of House Bill 1177. Lyndon Overweg spoke at the Monday committee hearing on behalf of police chiefs in South Dakota.

"Now we have to wait for them to swerve, or hit a car or hit somebody else before we can actually pull them over for it," Overweg said.

A bill which would have allowed officers to ticket drivers for texting behind the wheel even if they hadn’t committed another violation came before legislators last year. It failed in the House Judiciary Committee.

"I believe that a secondary offense is one that most South Dakotans will find easier to accept, similar to our seat belt laws," Rep. Charles Hoffman, R-Eureka, said.

The bill also has a section that prohibits cities from having distracted driving laws different from the state's law. City bans that call texting while driving a primary offense would have to change.

Yvonne Taylor of the South Dakota Municipal League says she supports the bill has a whole, but that section of it infringes on local control.

"It is a terrible precedent. It is a start down a path we have not gone down before," Taylor said.

Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, shared concern over that portion as well. An attempt by Rep. Christine Erickson, R-Sioux Falls, to remove that section of the bill failed.

The bill as a whole, supporters say, could decrease the number of people texting behind the wheel and cast it in a negative light.

"Personally I still think that the same actions are covered under our careless driving statutes. However I think it's necessary now for us to do this as a cultural change," Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, said.

Seven South Dakota cities have texting while driving bans. Pennington County has a ban as well.

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