What does the South Dakota Legislature not understand about the perils of texting while driving?
The National Safety Council cites cell phone use as the No. 1 source of driver inattention and last year estimated 25 percent of motor-vehicle crashes involve use of them. According to federal statistics, some 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving at any given daylight moment across America.
We don't know about you, but we find those numbers sobering, if not frightening.
Given its proliferation, the problem of using wireless devices while driving may have surpassed drinking and driving as the biggest danger on our roads today. As a result, it's time for society to apply the same sense of purpose to the goal of reducing cell phone use while driving as it has to reducing drunken driving.
Forty-one states have, in fact, passed bans on texting while driving.
South Dakota isn't one of them.
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Seven individual communities have passed local bans on texting while driving, but the Legislature hasn't embraced one for the state as a whole.
On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in support of a statewide ban on texting while driving, but the watered-down bill doesn't go far enough.
To emphasize the seriousness of this issue, the bill should make texting while driving a primary offense across the state, meaning law enforcement officers could issue a ticket for it without another traffic violation taking place. This step would arm all law enforcement officers with a valuable tool in efforts to reduce texting while driving and put more teeth into penalties.
We urge the South Dakota Legislature to deliver a tough message about this growing, dangerous problem.
Strengthen, then pass a ban on texting while driving anywhere within the state.