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State Texting Ban is Big Step in Wrong Direction

HB 1177 in the South Dakota Legislature deals with texting while driving. It is a very tiny step, but the strings attached make it useless and nullifies local laws passed by South Dakota Cities.

It is sponsored by a lawyer from Rapid City, who has previously stated his dislike for such a ban, and the people who have championed past efforts. This year, he has crafted a scheme which will make it easy for him and others to vote yes on a bill which does nothing to improve public safety in our state. Supporters of his ideology will be able to go home and state “I voted for a ban,” knowing the law is toothless and therefore useless.

The scheme is simple. First, texting will not be a primary offense. In other words, you can’t be stopped for texting. You can only be cited for texting if you are stopped for some other reason first.

Second, the law enforcement officer will not be able to handle/access your cell phone to determine if you were in fact texting, or using it in some legal way. Making it easy to get out of the ticket because of “lack of proof” unless you happen to be honest and admit you were breaking the law.

Finally, and to me, the biggest insult of all, the scheme makes all current lawfully passed local ordinances null and void.

There are at least five South Dakota cities with elected officials who have determined that texting and driving on the streets of their town is dangerous and should not be allowed. Many of those locally elected officials have decided by their votes in their city halls that texting should be a primary offense. In other words you can be stopped for texting.

Local elected officials working with their citizens have made reasoned and prudent decisions on public safety. HB 1177 slaps all of them in the face.

HB1177 will be voted on by the State House in the next few days. If I had a vote on this bill, in its present form, I would vote “NAY” – it does little good and in my opinion is a step backward.

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