Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sioux Falls Texting Ban Takes Effect

South Dakota’s largest city now officially bans texting while driving. A Sioux Falls city ordinance goes into effect Friday that makes it illegal to text or email when behind the wheel.

A driver who sends or reads text messages while operating a car in Sioux Falls now faces a $95 ticket That’s because the city has made communicating via text and email or perusing websites while driving against the law. Sioux Falls police chief Doug Barthel says police officers are immediately enforcing the ban.
" We’re going to be looking for the obvious signs. You’ve got both hands on your phone or you’re sitting at the stop light and the light turns green and you haven’t moved," Barthel says. "Or, frankly, if you’re driving along side of us and we look over and you’re looking down at your phone for an extended period of time, odds are probably pretty good you’re going to get pulled over for that."

Sioux Falls’ texting while driving ban applies whenever a car is in traffic, so even a person texting at stop lights or stop signs when the car isn’t moving is violating the ordinance and can get a ticket. Chief Barthel says officers ticketed drivers for the effects of texting while driving (like swerving in traffic or driving carelessly) even before the ban. He says people who try to hide their texting while driving create more dangerous scenarios that carry even bigger penalties.

Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether says the city council’s ban on sending and receiving electronic messages makes Sioux Falls a safer town.

"When we determine whether this thing was successful or not, guess what. It’s not going to be based on the amount of fines that we generate or the amount of tickets that we wrote. That’s not going to be the judge of its success," Huether says. "I think ultimately it will be, this town is going to be safer. We are going to have young and old alike that are going to think twice before they text while they drive."

Leaders say the ordinance doesn’t ban people from making calls and talking on cell phones.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).