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Crash Adds Importance To SF Texting Ban

July 27, 2012, 6:32 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Crash Adds Importance To SF Texting Ban
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

The texting and driving crash that killed 33-year-old Phil Sorensen is now putting an emphasis on the texting and driving ban the Sioux Falls City Council will vote on in a few weeks.

And while the ban wouldn't necessarily make the possible punishment more severe for the man arrested in the case, 21-year-old Brent O'Neal, it could make drivers on the road think twice before pulling out their phones.

"It's four seconds where your eyes are away from the street, you're not seeing children, you're not seeing other vehicles, you're not seeing whatever is going on in front of you," Sioux Falls City Council Chair Michelle Erpenbach said.

Erpenbach has been leading the charge for the past few months to make texting or emailing while you are driving illegal in the City of Sioux Falls. The ordinance will be voted on by the council in August, but Erpenbach says this week's tragedy at the intersection of 26th and Minnesota puts even more importance on that vote.

"Now we have real hard facts in our own lives, not just some study from some other part of the country, this is real and it's right here in Sioux Falls," Erpenbach said.

The city ordinance to ban texting and driving would be a primary offense, meaning police could pull you over if they see you doing it. Sioux Falls Police Chief Doug Barthel says while no one will ever know if an ordinance like this would have prevented the tragedy it would make drivers think twice before texting.

"Most citizens are very good, when they know there's a law that's what they follow and they don't violate it, so we would hope that would be the case with this as well," Barthel said.

And while the state legislature has failed to pass a statewide texting and driving ban for the past several years, Sioux Falls officials believe they can take the lead on an issue that has now tragically hit home for so many.

"I think we're at a point now where Sioux Falls knows it has to be a leader in terms of the way South Dakota takes care of issues like this," Erpenbach said.

If the ordinance passes the maximum penalty would be a $200 fine or 30 days in jail, but City Attorney Dave Pfeifle says drivers pulled over for texting and driving would most likely face the typical traffic offense fine which is between $95 and $120.

The council will have a first reading of the ordinance on August 7.

 

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