OUR VIEW: Might be time for statewide vote on texting while drivingIn the 1980s, a portion of the state’s federal highway funding was threatened before South Dakota’s legal drinking age was changed from 19 to 21.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
South Dakota has an odd attitude when it comes to betterment through government. Residents of this state have an individual spirit, evidently, and that spirit seems to resist most anything that government does to protect us from ourselves.
In the 1980s, a portion of the state’s federal highway funding was threatened before South Dakota’s legal drinking age was changed from 19 to 21. In more recent years, we have resisted mandatory seat-belt laws and public bans on smoking.
Now, our state government has decided that texting while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is OK, despite studies that show it is a dangerous practice and also despite some heartbreaking testimony from people who have been terribly and sadly affected by it.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted 8-5 to reject a bill that would have outlawed texting while driving. Speaking against the ban was Janean Christensen, a former Mitchell woman whose husband was killed by a driver who was texting at the time.
The state Senate had passed the bill 24-9, sending it to the House. Although nobody spoke against the bill during last week’s committee meeting, it still failed to get out of the committee and onto the full House floor.
Meanwhile, more than three dozen states have made it illegal to text while driving. Several cities in South Dakota have banned it, too. Mitchell may be next, according to some members of city government.
How can a bill with such nearly universal backing — on the local, state and national level — continue to get nixed by our own Legislature? Good question, but again, we think it goes back to the bogeyman that so many people envision when it comes to government.
We, too, worry about too much government. But when laws are put in place to protect us, and especially our children, from the haphazard activities of others (e.g., smoking in public, drunken driving, etc.) we are all for it.
Perhaps it’s time to put a texting-while-driving ban on a statewide ballot.
In this very space, we have lamented how South Dakota has too many ballot issues, but this is one that deserves consideration. The people in general seem to be behind a ban on texting while driving, but a few with influence continue to quash the idea.
This is about public safety, and many people want it.