S.D. lawmakers are debating whether to ban texting and driving statewide.
PIERRE, S.D. (KTIV) -
Is a ban on texting while driving enforceable? Can officers tell whether a person is texting inside a car? These are the questions lawmakers say they'll wrestle with, as they weigh the pros and cons of a statewide ban.
"It's just a shame that cities had to take it ahead of us as a state legislature," said Sen. Tom Jones, (D) Viborg, S.D.
Four South Dakota cities have already passed their own bans on texting while driving. The list includes Sioux Falls, Brookings, Watertown and Huron. At least one state senator believes the legislature should have made the move first.
"I wish we'd have been the forerunners of it," said Jones. "We're the leaders in the state, we should be doing our job."
A Department of Transportation study shows commercial drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash, and 18 percent of all crashes in 2010 involved a distracted driver.
"We don't like anyone telling us what to do. But at some point, and it happened with seatbelts and various other things," said Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, (D) Yankton, S.D. "But at some point, the statistics are just so overwhelming, and you can see that if you just simply pass a simple little bill, ink on paper, you can save lives."
"I certainly support the concept that we need to ban texting," said Sen. Jean Hunhoff (R) Yankton, S.D. "I have a difficult time that we have to mandate that behavior because that's what we always have to do. Where's the personal accountability?"
While no specifics are available yet, a bill is being drafted with the help of the Department of Public Safety. One concern is whether it would make a difference.
"I'm willing to consider a texting ban if it's enforceable and there's significant support from law enforcement," said Sen. Dan Lederman, (R) Dakota Dunes, S.D.
Another Siouxland lawmaker says it's not needed because of an existing law against distracted driving.
"It's already banned. It's already part of the law," Patty Miller, (R) North Sioux City, SD said. "You're not allowed to do other things while you're driving. It's already part of the law so it's redundant. And, it's one of those things that just creates another law."
The bill's main sponsor says he hopes a state law would make a difference because drivers would voluntarily comply with it.
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