Rapid City Police Chief pushes legislators for texting and drivi - KOTA Territory News

Rapid City Police Chief pushes legislators for texting and driving ban

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RCPD Chief Steve Allender (KOTA) RCPD Chief Steve Allender (KOTA)

Senator Mike Vehle  of Mitchell sponsored a bill that was passed by the Senate last year, but then was rejected by a house committee. This year's bill has a little more weight. For one, a number of South Dakota cities have already banned texting while driving. Another reason, the police chief of the state's second largest city is on a mission. 

Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender is making a concerted effort this year to get a texting while driving ban passed through the legislature. "The day after the law passes, South Dakota streets will be safer," said Allender.

 Allender said the law should be a primary offense, meaning a driver can be pulled over for simply texting and driving. "The police officers and deputies and highway patrol officer need the tools to protect the citizens they serve and they can't do that with any competency of a secondary offense, " he said.   

And many lawmakers agree with Allender. In fact, the State Senate passed legislation last session but the house shot it down.  

Senator Craig Tieszen of District 34 in Rapid City said he supports the ban on texting and driving. "It's been a long road, I think there are legislators that still don't think it's a public safety problem, there are legislators that think it's a problem but we can't do anything about," said Tieszen.

Representative Don Kopp of District 35 in Rapid City said research has convinced him to not support a ban. "There was no evidence that cell phone bans reduce crashes," said Kopp. He cited a study by State Farm Insurance that shows only a slight decrease in accidents in states where a ban is in place.

And Kopp said he has done his own research. "I've visited quite a few highway patrolmen in South Dakota and none of them believe it would be an enforceable law," said Kopp.

Regardless of enforcement, Allender believes a ban would increase safety. "It will summon the people of our state to obey the law and to act responsibly, and that is a fact," said Allender. 

In addition Allender says it's clear the mindset across the state is changing. Seven communities have already enacted city–wide bans.

Tieszen agrees public opinion is important to this issue. "I think eventually, in like all things, public opinion weights in and you that I think that a vast majority of South Dakota's drivers think that something needs to be done," said Tieszen.

Allender says a law won't have any teeth unless legislators get behind it. "We don't need to wait until more people die," said Allender.

Allender says a recent survey done by AAA shows that 92 percent of South Dakota drivers would support a ban.

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