Ever Work Really Hard on a Texting Ban Then Go Mama Grizzly To Protect It?
Sioux Falls has one. Pennington County does as well. Add Mitchell, Watertown, Brookings, Vermillion and Huron to South Dakota municipalities who have texting bans at the local level.
The South Dakota Legislature has had the issue in front of them for multiple years, but has not gained a consensus. This has led to bans at the local level. However, a measure that is under consideration could subvert the local action.
Rich Lauer of Sioux Falls spearheaded the effort to get the texting ban in place in this community and is miffed to put it mildly. “I don’t think anyone whose IQ is north of their body temperature believes that texting and driving is a good idea. Unfortunately the legislature has not been successful in reflecting the will of the people. Responsible communities have taken it upon themselves to pass ordinances. Laws are devices that an organized society uses to express its concerns and feelings on important issues of the day.” All the studies show that distracted driving is a detriment. Insurance companies, police organizations and the general public are in agreement on the issue.
So what does the above statue do to local laws that cover distracted driving? Rich Lauer says those local laws become meaningless. It changes the category from a primary offense to a secondary offense. Which means you can be pulled over if the police catch you in the act of texting and driving right now. If the new law is passed, there must be another reason besides distracted driving to be pulled over.
The last portion of the bill is especially troubling to Lauer. “The police are not allowed to confiscate any electronic equipment. So if there was an accident and there was a suspicion that you were texting and driving, (the police) cannot find out. It takes away the ability for police to gather evidence.”
The text of HB 1177 that pertains to banning texting while driving reads as follows:
No local government or local authority, except as expressly authorized by law, may adopt or enforce any ordinance or other measure regulating or restricting distracted or inattentive driving by a person who is operating a motor vehicle on a highway if the ordinance or measure is contrary to or at variance with any provision of state law relating to such activity or if no state law relating to such activity has been enacted or is in effect.
For purposes of this section, the term, distracted or inattentive driving, includes operating a motor vehicle while using electronic communications devices or electronic messaging, consuming food or beverages, interacting with passengers, watching television or other electronic or printed visual media, or engaging in other activity that may interfere with the ability to focus on driving tasks.