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Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Feb. 15, 2014
Stop playing politics with texting ban
If the South Dakota Legislature really is concerned about safety and thinks a ban on texting while driving will help keep residents safe, then the law should have some teeth.
Police should be able to ticket a person caught texting while driving without waiting for that driver to commit another offense or become involved in an accident.
That’s how it is in Sioux Falls and some other cities that have passed their own texting bans in recent years. Here, a driver caught texting can be fined. He or she need not be doing anything else wrong to get a ticket.
It’s important to note that the cities approved bans after it was quite clear that the state Legislature wouldn’t do it. Lawmakers have defeated efforts in recent years to implement any kind of statewide texting ban.
It doesn’t seem as if they’re really interested in passing a useful ban this year, either.
In fact, their discussion on the topic first involved a bill to prohibit local governments from enacting any laws on texting and driving. That has morphed into a bill that would make it a punishable offense only if a driver committed another traffic offense. And they have resisted efforts to allow those cities and counties who already have enacted tougher bans to continue to enforce their ordinances.
The only explanation for this activity is political. The legislators involved want to make sure that cities don’t pass their own texting bans.
It’s about the state asserting total control over traffic regulations.
It’s not really about safe driving.
Today, despite pushes by law enforcement officials to make the proposed ban tougher, legislators such as Rep. Brian Gosch of Rapid City are pushing the lesser measure through. Texting while driving would become a secondary offense.
If indeed the legislators supporting this ban are concerned about public safety and if indeed they want to standardize the regulations across the state, then why not just implement the same ban that some cities already have in place? Or at least grandfather in their existing texting bans.
Safety on the streets and highways should be a priority for lawmakers. City leaders across the state have made it a priority in their areas.
But this legislative effort flies in the face of local control and violates the spirit of home rule charters.
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