The city of Vermillion will implement a citywide ban on texting while driving May 2.
Members of the Vermillion City Council unanimously passed city ordinance 1297, effectively outlawing the act of texting while driving, during the Vermillion City Council meeting April 1.
City council member Steve Ward said after the South Dakota legislature failed to pass any bills forbidding texting behind the wheel during their 2013 session, the city council wanted to take matters into their own hands.
“(The city council) began discussing this matter several months ago,” Ward said. “With South Dakota cities like Sioux Falls, Brookings and Watertown passess these bans and the dangers of texting while driving has become more and more evident, this just seemed like something that needed to be done.”
Drivers who violate the new law will face a fine of 114 dollars, the cost of a standard traffic violation.
Vermillion Police Chief Matt Betzen said once the law is put into effect, the Vermillion Police Department will enter a period of education.
“This is a matter of egregious safety,” Betzen said. “It’s a growing problem and while driving may seem like a good time to catch-up with things, it’s not.”
Ward said the ban is for people like him.
“We are hoping most people won’t text because there is a law out there,” Ward said. “Honestly, there are times I have texted while driving and I know I won’t anymore because it is illegal.”
While Vermillion is the home to the University of South Dakota, Ward said the university was never a factor in implementing the ban.
“We did not vote on this ban because Vermillion has a college in it,” Ward said. “We would have considered this ban either way.
USD senior Katie Baken said she is for the texting ban.
“It’s a good thing for safety,” Baken said. “I am from California, where bans like this are already in place, so it’s a good thing that the city has opted to do this.”
Roadside signs and billboards informing incoming drivers of the new law is among the many things the city is preparing in order to educate the public on the ordinance.
“We are going to be doing things to spread awareness on the ban and give people kind of a heads up,” said Ward.
“My job is to keep people safe,” Betzen said. “And the city council agrees this is the direction we need to go and the goal is to generate a collaborative effort to cut down on this dangerous act with the community.”
Baken said the policy is worth any possible debate.
“In the end, anything to save a life, I am all for,” said Baken.
Betzen reinforced the idea behind saving lives.
“This isn’t about issuing as many tickets and fines as we can,” Betzen said. “It’s about spreading awareness about the dangers of texting while driving, and maybe we can save some lives.”
The ban will go into effect on May 2, just one day before USD wraps up spring semester finals May 3.