Legislation attempts to save lives

Arianne Skjeie, Contributing Writer

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According to textinganddrivingsafety.com, texting while driving causes 1.6 million accidents per year.

Texting while driving is a trend that is rapidly growinga��and a national epidemica��which is quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers. Drivers think they can handle texting while driving safely, but the statistics tend to disagree. A driver’s attention should be completely focused on driving because the driver is not just endangering themselves but others on the road as well.

According to the South Dakota Department of Motor Vehicles, in July 2003 South Dakota began allowing cities to have distracted driving ordinances. This law barred most teen drivers from using handheld devices such as cell phones, but the ban stated texting while driving as a secondary enforcement. This means police must witness another traffic violation before they can pull someone over and issue a ticket for distracted driving. Seven cities including Huron, Watertown, Brookings, Mitchell, Vermillion, Aberdeen and Sioux Falls, have enacted local texting bans between July and Nov. 2013. At this time, South Dakota was 1 of 9 states without a ban on texting for all drivers, but that is about to change.

According to Hands Free Info, S.D. has been trying to pass legislation since 2009. Former Representative Jon Hansen, of Dell Rapids, thinks there are other ways to influence our culture, to teach people that texting while driving is not socially acceptable. Other S.D. state legislators have agreed with Hansen and have been voting against the numerous bills brought forward that would ban texting while driving.

The Rapid City Journal recently interviewed Senator Mike Vehle of Mitchell on the issue of texting while driving. In January 2014, Vehle decided to try, again, to persuade his colleagues in the Legislature to join 41 other states and ban texting while driving. Vehle wants to make a culture shift. He believes that it’s not about the tickets. It’s not about the fines; it’s about safe driving. When you’ve got your eyes and your mind off the roada��that’s the dangerous part.

According to the Miami Herald, S.D. lawmakers resurrected and passed a ban on texting while driving on March 13, 2014, ending several years of disagreement between the House and Senate. The bill that will now head to Governor Dennis Daugaard’s desk makes texting and driving a secondary offense, carrying the penalty of $100 fine. According to News Center 1, the bill also states that local municipalities can still have the ability to make their own laws related to distracted driving.

“The one thing we need to remember is if by passing this saves one life, just because it’s illegal, we did the right thing,” said Senator Billie Sutton, of Burke.

Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s handheld or hands-free, delays a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. Texting while driving is not worth dying for. That text can wait.

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