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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

House And Senate Pass A Statewide Texting and Driving Ban

A statewide texting and driving ban is on its way to Governor Dennis Daugaard after a conference committee and both chambers passed the measure on Thursday. Lawmakers didn’t all agree on the terms of the bill, but still felt it was important to enforce some kind of texting while driving ban.

House Bill 1177 bans the use of sending or receiving text messages while driving throughout the state of South Dakota. This bill was defeated in conference committee on Tuesday night but yesterday it was brought back to life for a second attempt. A newly appointed conference committee passed the bill unanimously on Thursday, sending the bill to the floor of the House and Senate. Republican State Representative Scott Munsterman says it’s important to make driving safer. He says his dad gave him five rules of driving when he was growing up.

"But those five keys are aim high in steering, get the big picture, leave yourself an out, make sure that you keep your eyes moving and make sure that they see you," Munsterman says.

Munsterman says these safer driving tips can't be done when someone has a phone in their hand. Democratic State Representative Jim Peterson says this is a bill that even he can agree with. He chuckles that at times he can be a slow learner on laws.

"Seatbelt was a secondary offense and I didn’t wear seatbelts. I always said, well I didn’t vote for it so I’m not going to wear them. But even though I’m a slow learner, I do now always buckle up with seatbelts and hopefully the same thing can happen with texting," Peterson says.

House Bill 1177 makes texting and driving a secondary petty offense with a $100 dollar fine. It also allows for communities with existing texting ban laws in place, to keep them. The communities of Brookings, Sioux Falls and Huron have primary offense laws in place and they’ll be able to keep this enforcement.

Republican State Senator Mike Vehle is one of the main lawmakers pushing for a statewide texting and driving ban. He says some lawmakers hold doubts with the legislation because of what a cop can do to prove a person was indeed texting. Senator Vehle wants to clarify these points.

"There’s no seizure of your cell phone to establish that there was a violation of this act, so they can’t seize your cell phone. Unless there’s probably something else that happened, if there’s a big accident. Then you just go to the same search and seizures laws we have now," Vehle says.

Opponents to the measure say they want a stricter law enforced throughout the state, referencing a primary offense. A few other lawmakers want the state to concentrate on educating citizens of the state about texting and driving rather than trying to ban it with a bill. The South Dakota House of Representatives passed this bill 52-18 while the Senate passed it 28-7. This legislation goes next to Governor Daugaard and if he signs it, the bill becomes a statewide law.