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Lawmakers Say Electronics Ban Complicated

December 14, 2011, 4:55 PM by Brady Mallory

Lawmakers Say Electronics Ban Complicated
SIOUX FALLS, SD - At any given moment, more than 800,000 Americans are sending a text message or making a phone call behind the wheel.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, it is a deadly habit and the NTSB is urging all states to ban all use of electronic devices behind the wheel.

According to the NTSB, distracted driving played a role in 3,092 traffic deaths last year.   That is nearly one in ten deadly crashes.

42 states have a full or partial ban on cell phone use or texting while driving, while eight states do not have a ban at all including South Dakota.

NTSB Fact Sheet On Ban Of Using Portable Electronic Devices While Driving

Drivers may think the solution to distracted is as easy as sending a quick text. 

"It's never that simple," Sen. Deb Peters, (R) Hartford, said.

Drafting a law banning the use of all electronic devices behind the wheel might be a problem for South Dakota. Past bills have come to a sudden stop in the House. Looking ahead to this year, lawmakers said there are a lot of questions of what a law would include and how it would be enforced.

"At what point do you separate the XM radio built in your dash versus a separate add-on to your vehicle? Lots of devils in the details," Peters said.

The answer might have to be more all-encompassing.

"That's why we have such a broad careless driving statute that covers not just cell phone use or electronic use, but eating and driving or doing anything that distracts you from paying attention to driving," Sen. Angie Buhl, (D) Sioux Falls, said.

Like it did with seat belts and DUI laws, the NTSB's recommendation could change the conversation in Pierre.

"Obviously the federal government always has the power to tie funding to different levels of Department of Transportation funding based on the laws they want passed," Peters said.

Both lawmakers say it might be up to the driver to realize when it is time to put down the phone.

"There's so few things that people do on their cell phones that are worth risking that kind of accident. There are emergencies and people should pull over and deal with those, but at the end of the day, there's not a text or email I've ever sent that is worth someone's life," Buhl said.

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