Texting while driving in Sioux Falls is supposed to be a thing of the past.
But is it?
It's been a little over a month since the ban against texting and driving went into effect in Sioux Falls. You might be surprised at the number of tickets issued since then.
KSFY News spoke with a group of students at O'Gorman High School about how the ban has affected their driving habits.
Remember the Sioux Falls texting while driving ban? It was on the minds of many for months. Many pointed the finger at teenagers as the main offenders of texting while driving, but now it seems few are talking about it or even thinking about it.
Leah Billion is a member of the O'Gorman High School group S.A.D.D. (Students Against Destructive Decisions), said "it needs to be more well enforced. I've never heard of anybody getting a ticket for it"
Marissa Tran also is a member of S.A.D.D., she said "you don't hear anything about it in the news that this girl got pulled over, you don't hear about it in school this girl got pulled over. You don't see cops looking for it really, you just drive by, nothing..."
And 45 days after the texting ban went into effect, not one ticket! Police have yet to catch a single person texting while driving.
"The fact that no one is getting in trouble for it, should I be scared if no one is facing consequences for it?," Billion said.
Some may try to get away with it, but these teens say it's a risk not worth taking.
"It almost seems more dangerous because now they're trying to hide it. it seems like they're more distracted now that they're trying to keep their phone down low. they're more aware of the fact they shouldn't do it. trying to hide it almost seems like a bigger danger than doing it," Billion said.
So, is the message getting through to teens?
"Technology is addicting. The fact that no tickets have been given out is like if it's so severe, then why hasn't anyone gotten one," Tran said.
"I think the easiest way to break that and see real results with that it needs to be better enforced. It's almost like you're giving me a warning but you're not putting any consequences in action," Billion said.
The city says the purpose of the ban wasn't to give people tickets but to send a message about the dangers of texting and driving. Around town, we can still see people texting behind the wheel, which leads some to wonder, is the message really getting through?
O'Gorman student Pierce Edman said "we understand that texting and driving and that actions that happen are not a joke, but if the law goes into effect and how long has it been, a month, and no tickets have been given out, that means we need to be worried about not crashing but worrying about getting a fine for it is not in our head at all."
Getting a teenager to break a habit is never easy, but the pain of a ticket might.
"If their goal was to actually stop texting and driving via enforcing it, then a law is necessary if you're actually going to go out onto the streets and make people stop texting and driving by handing out tickets," Billion said.
The city produced this public service announcement to warn people about the dangers of texting and driving.
City councilor Michelle Erpenbach was a main sponsor of the ban. She says no tickets mean the message is already getting through to drivers.
"I think it's actually kind of awesome that we're not actually having to write tickets. the thing that I'm hearing from folks and learned myself is that when the phone buzzes and it's on the seat beside me, I tend to ignore it. I think about that idea that it's really not safe. I've had more and more people saying that to me as well," Erpenbach said.
With no tickets issued and drivers still texting, was it worth it? City councilor Kermit Staggers has been against the ban from the beginning, he says it was all for nothing.
"Now the hype is gone and people have kind of forgotten about the whole thing. and young people, well, I think sometimes they feel very invincible and they're not going to have an accident. they're just going to go ahead and text anyway," Staggers said.
"What people do with their phones behind the wheel sends mixed messages to the police. it may seem like I'm texting but I'm actually selecting my iPod. police admit it's what makes enforcing the law, in their words, challenging.
Here are some basic reminders about the Sioux Falls texting ban.
The ban prevents drivers from texting, emailing, instant messaging, and surfing the Internet while a part of traffic.
Being a part of traffic includes stopping at a stop light or stop sign.
The texting ban is a primary offense, which means we can be pulled over just for texting.
Those who do get pulled over could be issued a $95 dollar fine, or those who go to court to fight it and are found guilty could get up to 30 days in jail and a $200 dollar fine.
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