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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

Senate Passes Statewide Ban On Texting While Driving

The South Dakota Senate has passed a statewide ban on texting while driving. Today Senate Bill 179 was approved with a vote of 26 to 7. The bill makes it illegal to write, send or read text based communication while operating a motor vehicle.

The Senate approved one amendment to the bill saying law enforcement cannot seize a cell phone in the case of a texting violation. The amendment states that if the officer wants the phone in the case of an accident they must go through the current search and seizure laws. The bill also has a $100 fine but is a secondary offense.

Senator Mike Vehle is the primary sponsor of the bill.?

"The average text is five and a half seconds long. That’s the length of a football field at 55 miles an hour. So close your eyes look at the scenery and pretend you’re driving down the road," says Vehle. "One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five. Open up. Feel comfortable? Let me ask it to you in this way. Reverse it. How would you like to be meeting the person that’s coming at you at 55 miles an hour and hasn’t even looked at the road for the last length of a football field. It’s dangerous it’s deadly and it deserves to be illegal."?

Vehle says it’s up to the courts to decide how the bill coordinates with local enforcement of texting while driving.

Opponents of the bill say it doesn’t go far enough but Vehle says South Dakota needs to start somewhere to change the state’s culture.

Senate Bill 179 now moves to a house committee.

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