South Dakota Distracted Driving Law
- No Current distracted driving bans.
South Dakota Texting While Driving Stand
In 2011, 883 auto crashes in South Dakota were attributed to distracted driving, according to preliminary statistics. In addition, 134 accidents were directly related to the use of cell phones while driving. These alarming numbers have drawn the attention of Senators Craig Tieszen and Eldon Nygaard, who has teamed up with other concerned lawmakers to establish necessary measures to be put in place in 2012 to address the issue.
HB 1125 was expected to ban texting by all drivers. The Bill had specified the use of mobile phones for texting purposes. Unfortunately, the Bill was voted against on February 19, 2009, by eight to four votes. The Bill met its death at the hands of the House State Affairs Committee.
Senator Eldon Nygaard sponsored most of the Bills that have been shot down so far. However, he has not lost hope and expects a better outcome in 2012.
HB 1133 was meant for young drivers, where those who were below 18 years and had restricted licenses were banned from using different wireless communication devices, including cell phones. On February 1, 2010, the Bill was passed by the Health and Human Services Committee. However, it died after failing to advance beyond that point.
HB 1178 was meant to prohibit all drivers from using text messaging service while driving. On February 17, however, the Full House voted against it by 37 to 32. The sponsor requested for consideration but that too was shot down by a vote carried out the following day.
According to the SB 71 legislation, texting while driving would be illegal unless the driver used a hands-free application. Failure to comply with the law would either fetch a jail sentence or fine of up to $500. On February 8, 2011, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved and sent the Bill to the floor after voting six to one in its favor. The Senate voted in favor of the Bill by 26 to nine and sent it to the House. However, the House Local Government Committee voted against the legislation by eight to five.
In addition to text messaging, SB 115 also outlawed the use of different electronic messages, including Instant Messages and e-mails. However, the Senate Judiciary Committee set the legislation aside in a vote conducted on February 10.
The SB 71 Bill was set aside in spite of testimonies from Loren Vaillancourt (Miss South Dakota) and another nine people in its favor. The legislators who opposed the Bill cited a variety of distracted driving behaviors, including ‘swatting a bug!’ They said the cell phone keypads would be required for making calls and therefore expressed their concern over such enforcement.
While Tieszen agreed that there were different types of distracted driving, he insisted that texting posed the greatest danger. Only one-third of Republican legislators supported a statewide banning of texting while driving in South Dakota while one fifth had not yet made a decision, according to an AP survey. The survey that was conducted in December 2010 established that 75 percent of the Democrats supported the law.
According to one Senate sponsor, texting was the lowest-hanging fruit that some of the former opponents were likely to support in 2012. Bernie Hunhof, the House Democratic Leader, said more legislators were expected to support the ban on texting. He explained that legislators were moving toward the reality that if a simple law could save some lives, then the law most likely made sense.
Some parts of the media have also voiced support for the Bill. According to The Daily Republic, the law was worth it even if it averted just one tragic accident. In its editorial on January 11, the newspaper said that texting while driving should be a crime.
The Government Research Bureau at the University of South Dakota also conducted a survey that established that about 92 percent of the drivers in South Dakota supported such a ban.
Most of the Democrats in South Dakota want texting and driving to be banned while a high percentage of Republicans oppose such a move. GOP senators brought two texting Bills to the Legislature that failed to pass in 2011. However, they have not given up and plan to table legislation on distracted driving in 2012.
According to Senator Eldon Nygaard, the SB 71 texting Bill had failed due to insufficient organized support, something that is not expected to happen in 2012. Nygaard, who was one of the sponsors of the failed Bill, said that they had not gone far enough, explaining that they should have included a total ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.
Currently, there are no prohibitions of text messaging or the use of cell phones in general. According to one highway safety group, the traffic laws in South Dakota are the worst in the whole country. Both Auto Safety and Advocates for Highway gave the state a ‘red’ rating because of the lack of any laws on distracted driving.