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South Dakota bill would ban driving while using mobile devices

The South Dakota State Capitol building in Pierre. (Republic file photo)

PIERRE, S.D. — Lawmakers will debate a bill that would criminalize using a mobile device while driving a vehicle, even if the vehicle is temporarily stationary “because of traffic, road conditions, a traffic light, or a stop sign.”

House Bill 1169 was introduced by District 10 state Rep. Doug Barthel, R-Sioux Falls and has been assigned to the House Transportation Committee .

HB 1169 defines a mobile electronic device as “any hand-held or portable electronic device capable of providing wireless data or voice communication between two or more persons or amusement, including a cellular telephone, broadband personal communication device, two-way messaging device, text messaging device, pager, electronic device that can receive or transmit text or character-based images, access or store data, or connect to the internet, personal digital assistant, laptop computer, computer tablet, stand-alone computer, portable computing device, mobile device with a touchscreen display that is designed to be worn, electronic game, equipment that is capable of playing a video, taking photographs, capturing images, or recording or transmitting video, and any similar device that is readily removable from a vehicle and is used to write, send, or read text or data or capture images or video through manual input.”

Under HB 1169, “No person may operate a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device.” The violation would be a class two misdemeanor.

Law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, operators of authorized emergency vehicles, or “similarly engaged paid or volunteer public safety first responders” would be exempt under the bill if they were driving and using a mobile device while performing their official duties.

Using a mobile electronic device for emergency purposes would also be exempt under the bill.

The bill would not apply to the use of global positioning or navigation system feature of a mobile electronic device, however, it does apply to “manually entering information into the global positioning or navigation system feature of the device,” according to the bill text.

Using a mobile device in a voice-operated or hands-free mode, if the driver is not using their hands to operate the device, is exempt according to the bill. The driver can activate or deactivate a device to go into a hands-free mode, the bill text states.

“Reading, selecting, or entering a telephone number or name in a mobile electronic device for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call or if a person otherwise activates or deactivates a feature or function of a mobile electronic device or the use of a mobile electronic device in a voice-operated or hands-free mode if the operator of the motor vehicle does not use the operator's hands to operate the device, except to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the device,” would also be exempt under the bill.

Drivers would also be prohibited from accessing, reading or posting to a social networking site, which would be punishable as a class two misdemeanor under the bill.

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