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Brookings, Watertown Ban Texting While Driving; Vehle Wants Legislature to Follow

The City of Brookings has enacted the latest local texting ban in South Dakota. Ordinance 31-12 took effect last Monday, but Brookings police apparently needed a few more days of training before starting to enforce the texting ban on Friday.

The SDSU Collegian article got me a little nervous when it said that using a GPS device will also draw a ticket. I checked the ordinance text and found it specifically exempts GPS and other navigation devices, as well as voice transmission. Ordinance 31-12 limits its ban specifically to textual communication. You may not compose, read, or send any sort of electronic text message while behind the wheel in Brookings. The ordinance does include surfing the Web as a ticketable offense... which makes me wonder: if you click on Google Maps while driving to find George's Pizza, can Brookings police give you a ticket, or are you just using a navigation device?

Texting while driving will get you a $120 ticket in Brookings. Up the road in Watertown, you'll get a $200 ticket. But if Senator Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell) has his way, the local texting bans there and in Sioux Falls and Huron will go poof after this Legislative session... not because he plans to make a stand against the nanny state, but because he says that if anyone is going to nanny us on texting, it ought to be the state:

Vehle said it’s time to pass a state law banning texting while driving so the law is the same in every community. His measure would prohibit cities and counties from having bans that differ from his proposed state law, which would prohibit writing, reading or sending text-based messages while driving.

"What I’m trying to avoid is a patchwork of different laws as you’re driving down the road," Vehle said. "It should be the same all the way across the state" [Chet Brokaw, "Legislature to Consider Ban on Texting and Driving," Huron Plainsman, 2013.01.08].

So I wonder which reps will holler "Local control!" against Vehle's proposal?

Somehow Vehle and the communities taking action have fallen back to talking just about texting behind the wheel. Texting does require a higher level of mental and physical attention than talking on the phone. Yet the National Safety Council has found that "cell phone conversations are involved in 12 times as many crashes as texting." I know Speaker Gosch and all those other legislators who have to spend hours on the road going to and from Pierre each weekend hate to give up their talk time behind the wheel, but any conversation about banning electronic communication behind the wheel should include talking, not just texting, on our electronic distractions.


  1. leva 2013.01.15

    Cool - now, ride with a cop! If you have ever driven beside a policeman (Sioux Falls), you can note that they are constantly texting - with a laptop mounted conveniently next to the driver position. True - they may have to check license plates, etc. - but they are texting all the same!

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.15

    And that comment refutes the facts cited above how?

  3. leva 2013.01.16

    The biggest offenders are the very people who are supposed to enforce the law! Take the time to check it out for yourself.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.17

    Again, that refutes the facts about the dangers of texting and driving how?

    Leva, you're sounding like some of my high school kids. While I was chaperoning the dance Saturday, I told some kids to quit "bumping and grinding." A couple of them started pointing fingers—"Why don't you tell those guys to quit?" The need for others to stop their bad behavior does not change the need for the rest of us to change our behavior.

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