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Texting Ban Catches SD Lawmakers Attention

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A statewide ban on texting while driving in South Dakota took a big step Friday.

A Senate panel has approved a bill to ban texting while driving, a proposal that has been repeatedly rejected by the State Legislature.

"It's really exciting that Sioux Falls kind of got this ball rolling," said Erpenbach.

Michelle Erpenbach with the Sioux Falls City Council, said following the texting & driving ban in the city last September, three communities followed and now South Dakota lawmakers are taking notice.

"Citizens want this to happen, we need to make a change, we need to drive safer," said Erpenbach.

The support for a statewide ban is striking conversation between lawmakers in Pierre.

Senate Bill 142, which would prohibit writing, sending or reading a text message while driving, passed in the Senate Transportation Committee Friday.

The Bill gained support from State Senators, such as Mike Vehle.

"When you're driving down the road and I have my family in the car and you're not watching where you're going because you're texting, you're not only affecting you, you're affecting me and my family,” said Vehle.

However, there was some opposition.

"I'm not going to support this because I think enforcement is difficult. I think we have an existing careless driving law that we need to boost the fine on and stop it that way," said State Senator David Omdahl.

In the end, the Committee voted five-to-two to send the law to the full Senate.

39 States and the District of Columbia have already banned texting while driving, and Councilor Erpenbach hopes South Dakota is the 40th state to enforce the ban.

"For it to pass both houses, that'd be a dream come true, but it's been a long road, we've got a long road to go. It has to more than just me to say hey legislators, it has to take all of us," said Erpenbach.

The bill would allow drivers to make cell phone calls and use hands-free electronic devices.

It also would prevent cities from imposing any ordinance that varies from the statewide ban on texting.
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