Comparing South Dakota's distracted driving bill to other states' legislation

Published: Feb. 14, 2020 at 7:00 PM CST
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There's a new bill looking to address distracted driving making its way through the South Dakota State Legislature. House bill 1169 would make "distracted driving" a primary offence meaning an officer can pull you over if you're distracted by your cell phone.

Our neighboring states have passed similar distracted driving legislation.Dakota News Now spoke with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to see how the first six months have gone enforcing their new distracted driving law.

"Driving down the road, you see the car in front of you, it's swerving back and forth and you get up alongside them and pass them and sure enough they're on their phone with their heads down,” said Representative Doug Barthel.

Some states have passed legislation to combat this type of distracted driving. In Minnesota, a hands-free law went into effect last August. Since then, more than 9,000 people have been cited.

“ A Lot of drivers were proactive and they started to change their behaviors. They started to figure out what type of equipment they would need for their particular vehicle to help them go hands free,” said Mike Hanson, Director of Traffic Safety with Dept. of Public Safety.

In South Dakota, legislator Doug Barthel is sponsoring similar distracted driving legislation.

“If you're texting and driving or looking down at your phone while driving it's impacting you and me. So that's when you start to invade on other peoples safety and that's really what we're trying to correct,” said Barthel.

Rather than forcing drivers to go completely hands-free, Barthel's bill would still allow people to use their phone to dial numbers and talk, but it bans social media and scrolling. Similar to Minnesota's law, house bill 1169 makes distracted driving a primary offence meaning you can be pulled over and ticketed.

“Law enforcement, you know they realized that this was a very important law and they've been out there relatively aggressively enforcing it,” said Hanson.

In Minnesota, officials say it already seems like there's been a decrease in crash reports that cite distracted driving as a contributing factor.

“I think some positives are coming out of it. So that's what we want and again the whole point is to prevent these serious and fatal crashes that are distraction related from happening,” said Hanson.

In South Dakota with house bill 1196, if someone is caught distracted driving they could receive a traffic citation similar to what you'd get if you didn't stop at a stop sign. THe fine would be $122.50.

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