South Dakota lawmaker hopes to make texting and driving a primary offense

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SOUTH DAKOTA - (KSFY) According to the South Dakota Highway Patrol distracted drivers caused at least 375 crashes from 2015 to 2017.

One lawmaker is looking to lower that number.

Representative Spencer Hawley wants to make texting and driving a primary offense.

It may feel like a person is only looking away from the road for a just moment when they send a text.
But do you know how far a vehicle can travel in five seconds?

“That's the same comparison as driving down the length of a football field with your eyes closed,” AAA Spokesperson Marilyn Buskohl said.

She says it's a lot like drinking and driving.

“It’s almost worse than drinking and driving because you’re not focused at all,” she said.

The Slaba family says they have seen the dangers of this first hand.

“I had someone cut me off on Interstate 29 that was busy texting one night, one day rather,” Danny Slaba from Sioux Falls said.

He says the driver cut across three lanes of traffic going more than 65 miles per hour.

“I was amazed he didn't hit somebody...He never brought his head up. He was looking straight down at the steering wheel as if texting,” Slaba said.

Representative Spencer Hawley wants to stop incidents like that from happening.

“Our accidents nationally have gone up the last two years, 14% they've increased, and the numbers show that if you have tougher texting laws you have better results,” Hawley said.

He says for South Dakota that means making texting and driving a primary offense.

The legislation would allow law enforcement officials to pull a driver over, if they are texting, reading emails or checking social media.

“The second thing is it becomes a Class 2 misdemeanor which is the same as a speeding ticket,” Hawley said.

The bill does not stop people from using their phone to make calls.

Representative Hawley says he hopes it sends a different message to drivers, one they don’t have to read on their phones to understand.

“You're going to pay a penalty,” he said.

The bill will be up for debate on the house floor Tuesday.
If passed, it will move on to the Senate.