Emotional testimony from supporters of texting ban, Friday - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Emotional testimony from supporters of texting ban, Friday

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State lawmakers weighed a bill, Friday morning, that would ban texting behind the wheel across South Dakota.

It's a measure that has been repeatedly rejected by the legislature in the past. But, for the first time, it follows four major South Dakota cities that have already enacted their own bans.

Senate Bill 142 passed, Friday, through the Senate Transportation Committee 5-2 after nearly two hours of emotional testimony by supporters of banning texting while driving and those whose lives have changed because of it.

Jon would have been alive today if this 20 year-old man would have been focusing on the road, not his cell phone," Janean Christensen said.

Janean Christensen lost her 44 year-old husband, September 2010, when Justin Iburg checked a text message. It was a day both Jenean and Justin admit was the worst of their lives.

"It's an ambulance ride I'll never forget. Telling my children their father was gone was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Christensen said.

It wasn't over yet. Dozens gave testimony, including Terry Sorensen, who lost his son Phil in Sioux Falls, last July.

"You listen to what they have to say, those for and against. That's tough, too. Especially when they have kids. I hope it never happens to them, they never lose a child. It's the worst thing that could happen," Terry Sorensen said.

Two lawmakers on the committee voted down the measure, saying enforcing the law would be too difficult and we should be focusing our efforts on laws already in place.

Senator Mike Vehle (R-Mitchell) is one of the bill's primary sponsors. He says it's time to pass this bill because, unlike years before, texting has become part of our culture.

"I'm hopeful this is the year. When you sponsor a bill that's very much believed in, you have to be hopeful and believe this is the year," Sen. Mike Vehle said.

What's even more telling: families directly affected say they just don't want this happening to anyone else. 

"It's time something gets done so another family won't have to go through this pain. It's a growing issue you need to vote yes so this tragedy doesn't happen to anyone," Christensen said.

The bill now moves to the Senate floor. Stay with KSFY News as we follow its progress through the legislature.

For a closer look at Senate Bill 142, click on the following link: http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2013/Bill.aspx?Bill=142

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