Enforcement of texting is the big question
Published: Thursday, February 20th, 2014
Most people would agree that texting and driving is not a safe practice by any stretch of the imagination. It’s bad enough trying to answer, and communicate on, a hand-held cell phone in a moving vehicle. Trying to text and drive takes careless and reckless driving to a whole new level. It’s a danger to the driver and passengers and to any other vehicles that the texter my meet.
The South Dakota Legislature currently is grappling with a law that would ban texting while driving in the state. In District 30, Rep. Mike Verchio says state laws should be consistent and not be a patchwork of municipal text ban laws that now exist. As it now stands, municipalities like Sioux Falls and six other communities already ban texting and driving.
Rep. Lance Russell says the state already has laws against reckless and careless driving and that another anti-texting law is not needed. “I’m not going to add laws just to add laws,” Russell said at last week’s crackerbarrel in Custer. Russell is correct.
If it’s one thing we don’t need, it’s another law that is unenforcible or difficult to enforce. As we understand the law being proposed, a person could not be pulled over on suspicion of texting. It’s kind of like the seat belt law which is usually a secondary offense in a moving traffic violation if you are pulled over and not wearing one.
Mitchell Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg is president of the South Dakota Police Chiefs Association. He says local enforcement officers want to be able to pull over motorists just for texting at the wheel, rather than having to stop them for some other moving violation first.
Then there is the question of the amount of a fine to be imposed for texting and driving. The proposed $25 fine, which is the same as a seat belt violation, is a slap on the wrist. Someone not wearing a seat belt in a moving vehicle is a potential hazard to himself, while a texting driver is a hazard to himself, his passengers and those in any vehicles his car may meet on the road. The fine should be at least $100 if anyone is to take it seriously.
House Speaker Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City, said rules for texting while driving should be the same everywhere in the state. He said people should not have to question what the penalties are, what the rules are and what you can and can’t do while driving anywhere in the state. That makes total sense to us.
What concerns us is how this proposed law would be enforced. How do you know for sure whether a person is texting while driving or engaged in some other diversionary activity, like eating while driving? It seems that it would be nearly impossibe to enforce such a texting measure should it be passed by the Legislature, even if it would be a secondary offense like seatbelt violations are now.
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