Among 42 states with driver points, SD is only one that doesn't count speedingState law outlines numerous driving offenses for which points can be added to any South Dakota resident’s license, including serious offenses such as driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and eluding a police officer, and lesser violations such as failure to yield right-of-way, improper passing and stop-sign violations.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
Of the 42 states that enforce a point system for driving offenses, only one does not include speeding among its point-related violations — South Dakota.
“It’s an unexplainable omission,” said state Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls.
State law outlines numerous driving offenses for which points can be added to any South Dakota resident’s license, including serious offenses such as driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and eluding a police officer, and lesser violations such as failure to yield right-of-way, improper passing and stop-sign violations.
Depending on the seriousness of the offense, a certain number of points are added to a person’s license, and if a driver’s total points exceed the legal limit, the license can be suspended.
In South Dakota, if motorists exceed 15 points in any 12-month period or 22 points in any 24-month period, their driver’s license will be suspended up to 60 days for the first suspension, up to six months for the second suspension and up to one year for any subsequent suspensions.
South Dakota allows drivers to accumulate more points than the national average of slightly more than 13 points.
Speeding offenses, no matter the severity, will not add points to a person’s license in South Dakota — but it hasn’t always been that way.
Speeding contributed points to drivers’ records in South Dakota until a bill introduced in the state Senate in January 1986 and later enacted into law, Senate Bill 204, removed speeding offenses from the state’s point system.
The bill’s primary sponsor was state Sen. Mary McClure, R-Redfield. She introduced the bill along with state senators Elmer A. Bietz, R-Tripp; Carl Ham, R-Caputa; and Homer G. Harding, R-Pierre; and state representatives Eldon Wieczorek, R-Mitchell; Debra Anderson, R-Sioux Falls; Larry E. Gabriel, R-Cottonwood; and Alyce R. McKay, R-Rapid City.
Senate Bill 204 was signed into law by then-Gov. Bill Janklow on March 17, 1986.
Prior to the bill being enacted, residents of South Dakota could be assessed up to three points for certain speeding violations.
The bill was passed largely in protest to the federal government’s unwillingness to lift the national maximum speed limit of 55 mph. The limit was implemented in 1974 as a provision of the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, which was passed as an energy-saving move in response to the 1973 oil crisis. Slower driving would burn less gas, the federal government surmised.
The act was modified in the late 1980s to allow speed limits to be raised to 65 mph, and was repealed altogether in 1995.
But while the national speed limit was jettisoned and states were given the right to set their own speed limits, South Dakota never returned speeding offenses to the list of violations for which points can be assessed.
The issue returned to the floor of the South Dakota House of Representatives in January as House Bill 1170, which if signed into law would have made speeding a point-related offense once again and reduced the total number of points needed for a suspended license.
The bill was defeated, as House members voted 39-30 against it.
Rep. Hickey, the bill’s main sponsor, said in an interview this week that the current law does nothing to deter those who can afford the fines from speeding.
“A very small percentage of the state’s drivers would be in jeopardy of losing their license,” Hickey said. “Nobody would lose their license if they obeyed the law.”
Hickey said his proposal targeted the more than 500 residents of the state being cited for speeding more than 10 times each year.
“I’m not talking about the guys going 81 down the interstate and getting one ticket,” he said.
Hickey said he thinks South Dakota’s lawmakers are aware of the state’s unique point system, but is less convinced of the general public’s awareness of the issue.
The eight states not enforcing a traditional point system for driving offenses are Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wyoming.
Many of those states not using a point system impose greater fines and enforce stricter laws regarding driver’s license suspensions. For example, Hawaii does not use a point system, but still keeps detailed records of residents’ driving offenses and uses those records in some cases to assess greater fines and suspensions for chronic offenders. In Kansas, a license suspension is possible after three major moving violations in any 12-month period.
Speed played a significant role in the life of Janklow, who signed the bill that removed speeding from the state’s point system for driving offenses. He died earlier this year from brain cancer.
Janklow’s South Dakota driving record, obtained by The Daily Republic from the state Unified Judicial System, shows 16 speeding offenses, including four citations issued after he was involved in an Aug. 16, 2003, crash that killed Minnesota resident Randolph Scott. A jury later convicted Janklow of second-degree manslaughter, reckless driving, failure to stop at a stop sign and speeding for his role in the accident.
The incident effectively ended Janklow’s political career, and he was placed on probation without driving privileges for three years, sentenced to 100 days in jail and fined $5,750.
Janklow averaged 15.5 mph over the speed limit for the 16 speeding violations on his record.
If South Dakota had still enforced the pre-1986 point system that included speeding offenses, Janklow’s highest 12-month point total would have been 11 points in the period starting Oct. 11, 1991, — four points shy of a suspended license for three speeding citations and one citation for following too closely. Janklow’s highest 24-month total would have been 14 points in the period starting Jan. 13, 1990, which would have been eight points short of a suspension.
The extensive speeding record of another South Dakota politician, U.S Rep. Kristi Noem, was widely reported during her 2010 campaign for the seat she won in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Noem’s South Dakota driving record includes 20 speeding violations, dating from Oct. 30, 1989, through her most recent violation Feb. 22, 2010. Her record also shows she failed to appear in court six times and had two warrants out for her arrest because of unpaid fines.
Noem averaged 14 mph over the speed limit for her 20 speeding violations. She was cited for driving 89 mph in a 55 mph zone, or 34 mph over the speed limit, in June 1990.
If South Dakota’s old point system had been in place, Noem would have totaled 10 points in the 12-month period beginning Jan. 12, 2000 — five points away from a suspended license for four speeding citations. During that 12-month period, Noem was cited with two speeding violations in a span of five days, first on July 4, 2000, and again on July 9, 2000.
Noem’s highest 24-month total would have been 13 points for four speeding citations and one citation for failing to properly stop at an intersection in the period starting April 23, 1999, which would have placed her nine points from a suspension.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s record also shows numerous speeding offenses, but none since 2006.
Daugaard was cited for speeding 12 times between March 1991 and December 2006, and averaged 9.7 mph over the limit for those violations. If the state’s pre-1986 point system was still the law, Daugaard’s highest total would have been four points on two separate occasions — once during the 12-month period following Jan. 15, 2000, and again during the 12-month period following Jan. 8, 2006.
Not everyone thinks speeding should be added back into the point system.
“People get picked up for speeding. That’s just the way it is,” said Mitchell Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg. “For the most part, I feel the majority of people follow the speeding laws fairly closely.”
Overweg said a point system for speeding would have little to no impact on Mitchell law enforcement.
“We’re still going to enforce the law that’s out there,” he said. “We accept the way the law is written.”
Overweg expressed some concern that adding speeding to the point system would result in a more congested court system, because of more people trying to beat speeding tickets.
He said speed is usually less of a factor in the types of crashes his officers see in town compared to those seen by the state Highway Patrol.
South Dakota Highway Patrol Assistant Superintendent Maj. Randy Hartley has 24 years of experience with the Highway Patrol and was in law enforcement when the state’s point system still included speeding.
“I can’t say (speeding) is any worse now than it was before,” he said.
The state Department of Public Safety took no official position on this year’s bill to return speeding to the list of point-related traffic violations.
“It doesn’t really affect the way we operate,” Hartley said. “We don’t base our enforcement on what the punishment is.”
Hartley said speed is one of the leading causes of traffic crashes.
“Think about when you first started driving, everything tended to be slow,” he said. “I think people’s ability to control a car is greatly affected by speed.”
‘Door open’ to change
Since 2007, there have been 198 deaths and 5,433 people injured in speed-related crashes in South Dakota, according to statistics reported by the state Department of Public Safety. In 2011, 37 percent of traffic fatalities and 43 percent of traffic injuries in the state were the result of speed-related crashes, both increases from 2010. However, the total number of traffic fatalities and traffic injuries was less in 2011 than in 2010.
“I think most people look at the speed limit and think that’s how fast you’re supposed to go, but actually that’s the maximum allowable speed by law,” Hartley said.
Of all speed-related crashes since 2007, 31 percent resulted in injuries, and 1.5 percent resulted in at least one death.
State Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, was the Rapid City police chief from 2000 to 2007 before he was elected to the state Senate in 2008. He supported the recent legislation that aimed to make speeding a point-related offense.
“The reasoning is pretty simple: speeding is a moving violation that is at least as dangerous as other violations that collect points,” Tieszen said. “If people are getting points for running red lights and stop signs, they ought to get points for speeding.”
Tieszen was a police officer in 1986 when speeding was removed from the state’s point system and said the change seemed strange at the time.
Tieszen expects the issue to come up again during the 2013 legislative session and said if Rep. Hickey introduces similar legislation at that time, he will support it.
Hickey said he believed he had enough support among legislators to get the pre-1986 point system reinstated this year.
“(House Bill 1170) was unsuccessful because I tried to bite off more than I could chew,” Hickey said in reference to his bill, which aimed not only to put speeding back on the point system but also to lower the total number of points necessary for a suspended license.
“Sometimes these bills will take two to three times to get through,” he said. “I think the door is wide open.”