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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- A Vermillion lawmaker says South Dakota drivers who text at the wheel should be pulled over and fined.

Rep. Eldon Nygaard, D-Vermillion, introduced HB1125, a bill to make it illegal to operate a vehicle while composing, reading or sending an electronic message. People caught texting or reading e-mails on the road could be charged with a petty offense and be subject to a $20 fine.

"It's a terrible practice," Nygaard said Monday. "It's life threatening."

South Dakota people generally don't like being asked to give up any personal freedoms, Nygaard said, but reading or composing text messages while driving is senseless.

"South Dakota as a state tends to protect our freedoms long past the point some other states will go," he said.

He originally thought of seeking a ban on all use of cellular phones and other wireless devices by drivers. That probably would have been more than legislators would be willing to consider, Nygaard said.

In fact, Nygaard may be losing sponsors on his current bill. Rep. Bob Faehn, R-Watertown, is listed as a sponsor but says he probably will vote against the measure.

Faehn said Nygaard approached him about a complete ban on phones by drivers.

"I said that was too much, but I might be interested in restrictions on texting and driving," Faehn said Monday."

After he agreed to co-sponsor HB1125, Faehn said, he drove home from session. He picked up his phone to make a call, he said, and began to ponder how law enforcement officials would enforce a texting ban. It would be difficult to tell at a glance whether a driver was calling or texting, Faehn said.

House Speaker Tim Rave, R-Baltic, agreed the proposed law would be difficult to enforce.

"Where do you draw the line on it?" Rave asked. "How about the radio, or talking with a passenger in the vehicle? It has to have some common sense."

Nygaard says he wishes common sense would keep people from texting on the highway, but he sees examples regularly of drivers who are splitting their attention between the road and a handheld device.

"This bill is so clearly common sense," he said.

The bill hasn't been scheduled for a committee hearing yet.


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