SD Senate passes ban on texting while driving

South Dakota’s Legislature is halfway toward banning texting while driving.

A ban passed the state Senate Tuesday and now heads to the House, where similar measures have been defeated in recent years.

The 24-9 vote saw lawmakers endorse the argument that texting while driving is uniquely dangerous and worth singling out for a ban.

“Texting and driving is dangerous, it’s deadly and it deserves to be illegal,” said Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell.

Overruled were objections from lawmakers who said the law was unnecessary, because South Dakota already has a law banning careless driving.

“Why are you singling out texting while driving?” said Sen. David Omdahl, R-Sioux Falls. “All of these issues fall under the existing careless driving law.”

An attempt by Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, to limit the ban solely to the state’s larger cities, was defeated.

Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, said he traditionally opposes safety laws such as those requiring seat belts or helmets. But he said texting bans are different and earn his support.

“If I make a choice to not wear a seat belt, that affects my personal safety. If I make a choice while I’m driving down the highway to start texting, that affects my personal safety, but also everyone who’s sharing the highway with me,” Rhoden said.

The ban on texting while driving now heads to the House, where it’s expected to face a tough fight.