South Dakota may become the latest state to ban texting while driving, if Senate Bill 142 is passed.
The proposed legislation would prohibit a driver of any age from using a wireless electronic device to write, send or read a text-based communication. A violation would be a Class 2 misdemeanor, with up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, if convicted.
Drivers would be allowed to text if the vehicle is lawfully parked, to contact an emergency response vehicle, to obtain a telephone number or name for a cell phone call, and when using hands-free or voice-operated technology.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, said: “We need to get people thinking that texting while driving is not safe.”
Meanwhile, a bill that would take the texting ban further by banning the use of all wireless communication devices for teen drivers gets its first hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee on Monday. SB 106 would prohibit drivers from ages 14 to 17 from texting or using a cell phone while using a public highway.
The bill is part of a package of recommended legislation from the state's Task Force on Teen Driving Safety. Testimony on the bills will be heard on Monday by the Senate committee.
Included in the package of bills, in addition to SB 106, SB 105 would increase the time frame drivers aged 14 to 17 would be required to hold limited permits.
SB 107 would limit the number of passengers that under-18 drivers can have in a vehicle, unless the passengers included a parent or guardian over 21, or were immediate family, or if the driver was traveling to or from a school event.
SB 216 would establish a state-wide driver education program.
We support a state-wide ban on texting while driving. There is a U.S. government web page devoted to distracted driving, distraction.gov, that includes references to studies that show drivers sending or receiving text messages are 23 times more likely to cause an accident, and that 18 percent of all injury crashes in 2010 were due to distracted driving.
We also support the recommendations from the Teen Driving Safety task force, especially the ban on using electronic devices while driving. Learning to drive is difficult enough without the added distraction of texting or using a cell phone while behind the wheel.