Teen driving study applauded, but lawmakers cautious

Members of the South Dakota Legislature’s transportation committees praised members of a task force that studied teen driving, but stopped short of endorsing their four proposed bills Thursday morning.

The task force, which included legislators, state officials and members of the public, studied South Dakota’s high teen driving crash rate and recommended four laws: banning young teens from using cell phones while driving, limiting the passengers they can carry, requiring more instruction before they can drive on their own and creating a statewide driver education coordinator.

Read an introduction to the proposed changes here.

Lawmakers were enthusiastic about the task force’s work, praising the research they gathered and the uncompensated time they spent gathering it.

But the description of the bills by Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, didn’t win any immediate converts.

Most lawmakers on the committee said simply that they’d keep an open mind about the legislation until they see the specific language.

The bill that would ban teen drivers on instruction or restricted permits from using electronic devices while driving drew particular skepticism.

Sen. David Omdahl, R-Sioux Falls, said he has doubts about the enforcability of bans on mobile phone use.

Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea, agreed. But Otten said that while he’s opposed to blanket bans on texting while driving, he’s open to such a measure for teen drivers as a special case.

Thursday was simply an informational hearing for the teen driving task force. Tieszen and Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, will now gather co-sponsors for the bills and formally introduce them. Then they’ll be assigned to a committee and have a formal hearing and vote.