But Will They Let You Text Your Lawyer?

Despite the continuing brutal cold up here in South Dakota, several members of the legislature have thawed out a poor idea:

See a driver texting while driving and it probably makes you cringe when you’re on the road. That’s part of the reason why a bill that would outlaw texting while driving has passed its first test in the South Dakota legislature. The bill says that if you text while driving, you could face a fine and up to 30 days in jail.

Cringeworthiness = justification for a fine and/or 30 days in jail. Whose nanny wrote this article? A few thoughts (slightly modified from the last time this came up):

  1. If texting/emailing while driving is bad for those who are otherwise obeying the laws, one might be forgiven for thinking that it would be worse for those who are in the midst of emergencies (police, fire, rescue, etc) seeing that they are often driving under greater pressure and with less conformance with other traffic laws than the average driver on the road.
  2. How in the world will the act of messaging (as it is often called) be differentiated from the act of calling? Will officers of the law be trained on all the different mobile devices so they can tell the difference between a person typing in a phone number and the same person typing in a short text?
  3. If a person claims he or she was not texting while driving, will the officer be authorized to secure the phone and determine from the logs when the last texting occurred? Will the officer be trained in knowing the difference between a text/email that was received and read, and one which was simply received but not read? How will the officer know if the text/email was read by a passenger in the same vehicle and not the driver?
  4. Is the holder of the device to forfeit all expectations of privacy while the officer examines the phone to determine possible text/email violations? With this in mind, will the officer be permitted to look at content of text messages/emails? By so doing, will the officer be permitted to use the existence of a “sext” (for example) as probable cause for violations of other laws?
  5. $500 fine and/or 30 days in the county clink. Isn’t that about the equivalent of going 30 miles over the speed limit, or something of the sort? Are we really equating these two items in terms of risk?

I love the close of this other article:

One opponent says distracted drivers can be charged under existing laws, and the proposed fine is too high.

Make that at least two opponents, would you, next time you update the article? Thank you.

Oh, and Nebraska and Iowa are welcome to all the revenue they are generating from their texting bans. Given the deficits they are running, ours is puny by comparison.

Of the two bills that were up for consideration, it seems that this is the one that has been given the go-ahead by the committee.