State House committee kills teen safety bills - KOTA Territory News

State House committee kills teen safety bills

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Two of four teen driving safety bills that roared through the state Senate were kicked to the curb in the House Transportation Committee Tuesday morning.

First off the road was Senate Bill 105 which would have increased the time a teen has a learner's permit from six months to a year. Lawmakers voted 9-5 to send the bill to the 41st legislative day, which doesn't exist.

Senator Craig Tieszen, R-District District 34 and chairman of the Teen Safe Driving Task Force, told the committee that South Dakota is the only state that allows 14-year-olds to drive. "Most states don't allow teens to drive until they are 16," he said.

 

Increasing the time a teen has to be supervised while behind the wheel, according to insurance company lobbyist Dick Tieszen, will cut teen death rates. "If we have that young person practice and learn for 12 months, that curve (death rate) drops dramatically," he explained. He told committee members that teens tell him that the biggest problem they have with crashes is their lack of experience.

But the rural culture of South Dakota kept coming up in opposition to the bill. Representative Dean Schrempp, R-District 28A, related personal experiences in explaining his position, saying his kids were able to drive when "they were 7 and 8 years old."

Representative Lance Russell, R-District 30, even questioned the information the committee heard. "I've not heard compelling testimony that we need to change what we are doing in the state; dramatically restricting those young people who are capable of getting a full-blown license," he explained.

The transportation committee was also in no mood to limit the number of passengers a teen driver can haul around, packing Senate Bill 107 into the trunk along with SB 105.

The teen driving safety task force report to the legislator stated that while teen drivers from 14 to 17 years old accounted for just 4.4 percent of all licensed drivers, they accounted for 18 percent of all speed-related crashes. This problem was compounded when other teens were in the car. A teen driver's chances of crashing went up 44 percent with just one passenger; doubled when carrying two and quadrupled when driving with three or more passengers.

No lawmaker questioned that data but they had the usual concerns about how to police the law.

 

Equally contentious was Senate Bill 106, banning all wireless devices for teen drivers (14- to 17-year-olds), whether it is texting or calling. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that texting while driving increases the risk of a crash at a rate higher than drunk driving does. And while the bad habit of texting and driving crosses all age groups, a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study shows that younger age groups are more apt to text and drive.

The pesky old hand-wringing about how to police the law … coupled with the cry against "mandates" almost stalled the bill's progress. "What gets me is mandates," Schrempp said. "This is wireless. What will it be next year … you can't eat a sandwich while driving down the road? I fought seatbelts since the first day I was in the legislature and I probably shouldn't say it but I still don't wear my seatbelt," he clamored.

What is odd about Schrempp's complaint is the fact that he ultimately supported the phone ban bill, helping to send it to the House floor for a final debate.

Also moving on is Senate Bill 216, setting up a statewide education program. This bill also had a little trouble when an amendment to fund the program was added. South Dakota doesn't have a comprehensive, cohesive driver education program … no standards, no core curriculum or certification requirements for instructors.

The four bills were brought to the legislature by the state Task Force on Teen Driving Safety, which met over the summer and released a final report earlier this year.

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