In April 2014, the Rapid City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would make texting while driving a primary offense. The road to this law is one that has been well-traveled in-state and out.
Starting in July, South Dakota and New Mexico will become part of the 43 states with laws banning texting while driving (additionally, three states ban texting while driving for school bus drivers, and four states ban younger drivers from texting). South Dakota is one of five states where texting while driving is a secondary offense; that is, police cannot pull someone over for texting, but a driver pulled over for another reason can be fined for texting.
Bills instituting statewide texting bans have been considered in each legislative session of the last five years. In 2014, bills dealing with texting were proposed in both the State House and Senate. After several amendments, HB 1177 was passed and signed into law. This established texting while driving as a secondary offense for the entire state.
Ironically, HB 1177 was originally written to nullify any local texting bans. Without a statewide ban, several east river cities passed local ban: Huron, Watertown, Brookings, Mitchell, Vermillion, Aberdeen, and Sioux Falls. Recently, Box Elder and Pennington County also passed bans. The reworded HB 1177 allows these local bans to stand, and lets other cities pass stricter bans.
Rapid City officials had been considering a texting ban, but decided to wait for action by the legislature. After the ban was finally passed, officials felt that texting as a secondary offense was too weak, and largely unenforceable. Their response is ordinance 5988. The ordinance is almost identical to the state law, but it sets texting while driving as a primary offense.
The ordinance was unanimously approved at its first reading on April 7th. The ordinance was approved with the second reading on April 21, 2014.
The ban went into effect on May 16, 2014. Prior to passage, the Rapid City Police Department stated that they will not start ticketing every texting driver. Instead, police will start a campaign to raise public awareness. Enforcement will primarily be through verbal and written warnings. This is expected to last until the start of July.
Although use of cell phones and texting are most commonly considered with distracted driver laws, they are not the only forms of distracted driving. Pets and children can both provide a distraction; for the driver, eating, smoking, and grooming can all be distractions. A 2011 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report estimated distracted driving was responsible for 3,331 deaths and 387,000 injuries that year.
Texting in the BHKN archive
Distracted driving facts and statistics -- from the Official US Government website on distracted driving
Texting while driving statistics -- infographic concerning distracted driving