Mayor: Mitchell will wait on Legislature’s decision on texting, drivingFour SD cities have already enacted ban - Sioux Falls, Huron, Watertown and Brookings.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Four South Dakota cities have banned texting while driving, but don’t expect Mitchell to join the list anytime soon. “I don’t think at this point it’s worthwhile,” said Mayor Ken Tracy, who favors prohibiting texting and driving.
“It’s getting close to the legislative session and Senator (Mike) Vehle is going to introduce some legislation to ban texting,” Tracy said. “I think we will wait and see what the outcome of any legislative action might be and make a decision after that.
“If they don’t, I think the city will probably reconsider.”
Vehle, a Republican from Mitchell, is the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He has introduced texting while driving bans before, and says he will do so again in the 2013 session. Sioux Falls banned texting and driving in September, and this month, Huron, Watertown and Brookings have added the law to their books. Mitchell considered a texting and driving ban shortly after Sioux Falls enacted its law, but despite Tracy pushing for it, the city council chose not to enact one at its Oct. 1 meeting.
Councilman Phil Carlson, a lawyer, said then that the law would be difficult to enforce.
Councilman Dan Allen said at the Oct. 1 meeting that he would prefer a statewide ban, and on Friday, Tracy said that is now his position.
“I would certainly prefer the state would pass something rather than it be piecemeal throughout the state,” he said.
But the mayor said if the Legislature once again does not take action against texting and driving, the city will consider enacting its own law. He said concerns about the effect of such a ban are likely overstated.
“I believe 39 states have a ban,” Tracy said. “It would seem there must be a way of having something on the books that can be legally enforced.”
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, laws prohibiting texting and driving are spreading across the nation.
Talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 10 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia, according to the IIHS.
“The use of all cellphones by novice drivers is restricted in 32 states and the District of Columbia and the use of all cellphones while driving a school bus is prohibited in 19 states and the District of Columbia,” it states on its website.
“Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 39 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, novice drivers are banned from texting in five states (Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) and school bus drivers are banned from text messaging in three states (Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas).”
Local bans have been passed in communities across the country as well, according to the IIHS.
To see an interactive map with more information on texting and driving bans across the country, go to http://www.iihs.org/laws/maptextingbans.aspx.