South Dakota lawmakers this week took the first step toward passing a statewide texting while driving ban when the Senate Transportation Committee approved a new bill aimed at doing just that. The proposed bill now goes before the entire South Dakota Senate for passage, which seems likely given the current political climate in the state and the public opinion polls which show that state residents are eager for their leaders to address what is widely considered a public safety issue.

So far 39 states around the country have similar laws which prohibit drivers from engaging in activities such as texting and driving, or using a handheld device to do anything (including making calls) while driving. These new laws were meant to address the rising number of distracted driving crashes being reported each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a report last December that showed the number of vehicle collisions caused by distracted driving had eclipsed the number of vehicle collisions caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also spoken out against the dangers of distracted especially among young drivers for whom vehicle collisions remain the leading cause of death.

Currently state law allows each municipality to set their own and four South Dakota cities have passed such laws in the absence of a statewide ban. If the new statewide distracted driving law goes into effect, anyone caught violating the law will face the possibility of a $500 fine, 30 days in jail and points added to their license.

Improv Traffic School will be following this proposed legislation and will report back to you if it does become law..