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Huron Distracted Driving Law Begins

January 3, 2013, 5:08 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Huron Distracted Driving Law Begins
HURON, SD -

So far, three South Dakota cities have texting while driving bans going into effect this year. Huron's started Thursday.

In addition to texting, the Huron law allows police to ticket drivers for any distraction if it causes them to break another law. So, for example, if you're focusing on a hamburger and run a stop sign, you can get a distracted driving ticket.

Huron's police chief acknowledges it'll take some time before officers will be used to the new law. But once they are, he says it won't be hard for them to enforce.

Even as officers patrol the streets on Thursday, you didn't have to look hard to find a driver violating the new texting ban. But the measure's supporters, like Greg McGill, hope the law causes the number of distracted drivers to drop.

"It's kind of a no-brainer that it's truly a dangerous thing to do," McGill said.

The police department gave officers a training bulletin outlining the law and how to enforce it. As officers get used to looking for the violations, they'll be able to pick out a texting driver more easily according to the chief of police, making enforcement easier.

While enforcing the law, police will be in a grace period at first.

"Basically, during the month of January we are going to give mostly warnings," Huron Police Chief Gary Will said.

Will says drivers who earn a ticket during that time will be ones who've already been warned, those who know about the law but say they won't obey it or drivers with a violation so severe that police determine a warning isn't enough.

"We don't want to have to write any tickets at all. You know, we hope people will just drive with less distractions," Will said.

The city has spread the word about the law through various media outlets. It wanted to post signs coming into town but those highways are under state control. And Will says the state is waiting to see if legislators pass a state-wide ban before deciding what kind of signs to post.

Signs or not, McGill is happy the law is in Huron.

"I think it should be a nation-wide thing to tell you the truth," McGill said.

For now, it's police in Huron learning to look for something new as drivers look to leave some habits behind.

The law received some misleading national attention when it first passed. National websites and even a TV program called the distracted driving portion of the law an eating ban. Will says that caused some locals to call in upset about the law but it calmed down when the city corrected the misunderstanding.

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