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Statewide Texting While Driving Proposal Reaction

February 11, 2014, 5:00 PM by Matt Holsen

Statewide Texting While Driving Proposal Reaction
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

South Dakota could become the 42nd state to ban texting and driving. But the current proposal, HB 1177, doesn't have a lot of teeth compared to most other states.

Legislation moving forward in Pierre would make texting and driving a secondary offense. So, you'd have to break another law, such as speeding, before police could pull you over.

In 37 states it's a primary offense, so all you need to do is text and drive to get a ticket. South Dakota's fine would be $25.  California is the only state with a fine lower than that. If it gets the Governor's signature, South Dakota's law would also overwrite any local distracted driving laws.

In an effort to make the streets safer, the city of Sioux Falls enacted a texting and driving ban in 2012. A new proposal from the state could make that law null and void. That's a move some think is necessary.

Matt Holsen: Do you worry that it takes control away from local cities?
Lisa Bartell: No. It just makes it more consistent and then you know anywhere you are, that's the rule.

Right now, Sioux Falls police officers have the right to stop and ticket anyone for texting while driving alone. If this new bill passes, that would change. Authorities would need to catch drivers committing another violation first. That doesn't sit right with some.

"I for sure think that they should be able to pull someone over if they see it happening. I know I want to scream at them when I see them texting next to me when I'm driving," Joe Erickson said.

Erickson thinks changing texting and driving from a primary offense to a secondary offense could take some of the teeth out of the law and make it harder to enforce. But he admits, it's already difficult to get people to pay attention to the ban.    

"I don't know if a whole lot of people are going to follow it anyway but it's worth a try," Erickson said.

"It's very dangerous. Your attention is off the road and things can happen so fast. My kids used to text and we'd get after them all the time," Bartell said.

Under House Bill 1177, drivers could still send a text message if their car is parked or they're calling 911.  It would also be ok to use hands-free technology.

The measure is out of committee and on its way to the full House.

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