South Dakota Senate committee passes teen driving package
A panel of South Dakota's senators passed a package of bills aimed at curbing car accidents involving teen drivers.
South Dakota's Senate Transportation Committee passed a package of bills extending the time required for having a learner's permit, limiting cellphone use in a vehicle and limiting the number of passengers in the vehicle. The panel also passed a bill establishing a statewide driver education program.
The bills came from the Teen Safe Driving Task Force, which was authorized two years ago. Senator Craig Tieszen, of Rapid City, testified that the task force found South Dakota is not a very safe place to drive for teens.
"We are more or less at least twice as dangerous a place to drive for teens in South Dakota as compared to around the nation," Sen. Tieszen said.
Senate Bill 105 was introduced first; it extends the time required to having a learner's permit before obtaining a restricted license. Tieszen testified that having more learning time and experience will help decrease the amount of teen accidents.
Currently, in South Dakota 14 year olds can receive your instructor's permit for ¾ of a year and it can be turned into a restricted permit. If those teens take driver's education they can turn the instructor's permit into restricted permit after 180 days.
SB105 makes it so a 14-year-old has an instructor permit for one whole year, or ¾ of a year after driver's education.
The next sent a bill limiting the number of passengers teen drivers can have in their vehicles to the Senate floor. SB105 unanimously passed.
SB106 was passed next. The bill prohibits holder of an instruction permit from using any type of wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle upon the public highways.
Senator David Omdahl, of Sioux Falls, opposed the bill saying it should be the parents' responsibility to keep their teens from using devices while driving.
"You're looking at government to do your dirty work so to speak, and I don't like it," Omdahl said about Senate Bill 106.
However, proponents say the bill is a deterrent. Senator Shantel Krebs, of Renner, said there are some bills that require the government to get involved. She said as the world evolves to mobile devices so does the legislature.
"What we're doing here is a deterrent, and teaching them that the focus is on driving and the package itself is to make some changes," Krebs said. "We as legislators are here to propose a change in the way 14 through 16 year olds drive in South Dakota."
The next bill debated, SB 107, prohibits a driver with a restricted license from having more than one passenger under the age of 18 in the vehicle. The bill, however, does make exceptions for teens driving to school functions or if family members are passenger.
Tieszen said the task force struggled with SB 107 because it realized the pitfalls that come with restricting the number of passengers in a vehicle, given the amount of drivers in rural South Dakota.
"The bottom line is that the evidence is very convincing, that a carload of joyriding students is very, very prone to accidents," Tieszen said before the Senate Transportation Committee Monday morning.
All the bills in the package will be heard on the Senate floor.