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Police Find Texting Law Difficult To Enforce

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It's been nine months since the texting while driving ban went into effect in Sioux Falls. Since then, police have written only 19 tickets. The most recent one was handed out when our KDLT News crew was along for the ride.

Officer Greg Slaven with the Sioux Falls Police Department said, "It's called prohibited use of electronic messaging or using technology while you're driving."

It just so happens, while we were riding with Officer Slaven, he noticed someone on their phone in the car next to ours. The driver wasn't sending a text message, but was surfing the Web.

"I know you didn't see me. I was sitting right next to you and you were sitting there sending messages," said Officer Slaven to the motorist. The unidentified driver said, "I was checking my Facebook." Slaven replied, "Ok, yeah, that's against the law."

But Slaven says it's not always this easy to catch. Ever since it became illegal to text, use the internet, and read or send an email or message while driving, it's become more difficult to enforce.

Slaven said, "Before it became a law, we used to enforce it as careless driving and we were able to write those fairly easily because nobody thought it was against the law to be distracted while they were driving."

Now, when people see a cop in Sioux Falls, they take notice.

"A lot of people have their phone down here, if they're going to text, they'll do it down here so you can't see what they're doing," said Slaven.

However, that doesn't stop officers from writing a ticket. Slaven says he doesn't even need to look at your phone to prove you're breaking the law. If a person is on their phone longer than what it takes to make a call, they're most likely doing something they shouldn't.

Slaven said, "I have to be able to articulate, yes, they had the phone in their hand, yes, it looked like they were texting while they were driving.""I can write them a ticket, if they want to dispute it. I can take them to court."

Even though the law in Sioux Falls doesn't restrict people from making a phone call or using a navigation system while driving, it doesn't mean a ticket can't be issued for that as well. If using a phone is causing someone to make mistakes while driving, it will cost them even more.

"Careless is $120 and texting is $95," said Slaven.

Even though police may not always catch it, when they do, they will send you on your way with an expensive lesson.

The Legislature has rejected proposals to ban texting while driving statewide. But along with Sioux Falls,
Brookings, Watertown, Vermillion, Huron and Mitchell have passed ordinances to impose local bans.

So far, police haven't issued any tickets in Vermillion or Huron but have given out several warnings. Police in Watertown have issued only one ticket and one warning. It's unknown if Mitchell or Brookings have issued any tickets.
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