Texting while driving soon to be against the law, but what does the bill really mean?

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Where law enforcement could once pull someone over and ask if they were using their phone, there are now more serious consequences.

In South Dakota it may soon be a class two misdemeanor if drivers are caught texting while driving.

“So the gist of the bill is pretty simple,” says Deputy State’s Attorney Adam Shiffermiller. “You can’t be on your phone while you’re driving. That, boiled down, is what it is. We just want people when they’re driving to be focused on the road and other drivers and not on your phone.”

Though the law plainly lists what is considered ‘texting’ and what mobile devices are not allowed, other parts of the bill remain up for interpretation.

Reasons to be on your phone will driving –  texting or social media use – are violations of the law. But making a call is permitted.

“If an officer views you on your phone, that is, since it is a violation of the law, they can stop your vehicle and talk to you about why they stopped you, and then they’ll have a conversation with you as to what you were doing,” says Shiffermiller.

It will be the discretion of officers and the courts on whether to charge the misdemeanor.

The key for the State’s Attorney’s Office is that drivers can now be charged with texting on their phones – or the other rules listed within House Bill 1169.

Hopes are that it will deter drivers from using electronics while operating a vehicle.

“It might take a few times of someone getting pulled over to say this is probably something I shouldn’t do again,” says Shiffermiller. “It’s a deterrent you probably wish we didn’t need to have, but it hasn’t stopped people yet, so maybe this will be that one step toward really nailing down that when you’re driving, really focus on the road.”

Governor Kristi Noem has yet to sign the bill into law.


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