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Texting While Driving Bill Moves Forward In Pierre

March 5, 2014, 5:54 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Texting While Driving Bill Moves Forward In Pierre

After years of failed texting and driving bills in Pierre, there are still two alive this session.

A House version of a texting ban passed a Senate committee Wednesday in a five to four vote. Unlike the Senate version, this bill would prohibit cities and counties from having their own distracted driving laws. It also comes with a $25 fine. The Senate version would punish violators with a $100 fine.

"Frankly, members of the committee, we don't care how you do it. Just get it done this year," Bob Miller said.

Others partially agree, but say they can't support the House version because it won't let cities and counties have their own distracted driving laws. This bill would make texting behind the wheel a secondary offense. Some local governments have it as a primary.

"They will stop people as a primary offense and give them a ticket that is meaningful, that will deter people from taking this lightly," Sen. Larry Lucas, D-Mission, said.

Some also feel a $25 fine in the House bill isn't enough. They think the $100 fine in the Senate bill sends a stronger message.

"We would respectfully ask you to defeat this bill and to go on to urge your house colleagues to pass the Senate version," Yvonne Taylor said.

"These are the cards that are on the table, the cards we need to deal with. I think the options are if we do not pass this we run the risk of having nothing," Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, said.

Arguing the House bill is the stronger of the two, supporters say the state needs consistent traffic laws. They say it's important for visitors as tourism is an important industry for South Dakota.

"It's hard to know that you can't eat a hamburger in one city and the next city you can't text and the checker board concerns me," Myron Rau said.

Supporters also say they like the $25 fine. Since it's a secondary offense, those ticketed for texting and driving would have to be pulled over for another offense and could be ticketed for that as well.

Representatives will debate the Senate version of the bill Thursday.

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