A statewide texting-while-driving ban may be in South Dakota’s future after the state House and Senate finally came to an agreement in March. The bill, which has not yet been signed into law by Governor Dennis Daugaard, would make it illegal to use cell phones and other devices to read, compose, or send text messages while behind the wheel. While drivers can only be charged with the offense when stopped for another traffic violation, and the proposed penalty of $100 is not particularly steep in extreme situations, the hope is that an official statewide ban will both help to prevent accidents and raise driver awareness.
There have been many public advocates of the ban, and there has been a lot of pressure put on lawmakers to take action in South Dakota. Many members of the South Dakota House and Senate agree, at this point, that something should be done about texting while driving, and multiple lawmakers in the state have made statements to that effect:
Representative Troy Heinart, D-Mission, supports a ban, stating that “We've lost too many young people, too many old people. We can't allow this to happen anymore.”
Senator Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, a long-time advocate of a South Dakota texting-while-driving ban, said “This is not about tickets and fines, but it's about changing the culture that texting while driving is not safe. It's dangerous. It's deadly, and it deserves to be illegal.”
Senator Blake Curd, R-Sioux Falls, had formerly been against a ban. However, as a doctor, he says that “Some of those results can be catastrophic, and certainly, as we all know, can be fatal,” and has since changed his mind about the need for a ban.
Sioux Falls, Brookings, Mitchell, and several other South Dakota cities have already imposed their own texting-while-driving bans, and it’s unclear what might happen in areas where previously imposed penalties are stricter than the potential statewide law. Although this bill, if signed into law, would not prevent municipalities from passing bans that are stricter than the state level, the issue will ultimately be settled in the court system.
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