In Our Opinion: Proposed laws would improve road safety in South Dakota

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Farm Forum

Four new pieces of legislation will give young and new drivers more regulations, but parents and law enforcement officers will get more tools to keep families safe.

On Wednesday, the South Dakota Senate gave approval to:

• Senate Bill 105: Adds three to six months onto the time a first-time driver holds an instruction permit.

• Senate Bill 106: Prohibits the use of wireless communication (smartphones, iPads, etc.) for drivers younger than 16 when they are in the pilot’s seat.

• Senate Bill 107: Limits the number of passengers who can ride in a vehicle driven by someone with a restricted permit.

• Senate Bill 216: Establishes a statewide driver’s education program.

This package next goes to the House, where we hope it is passed.

We might be surprised that some of these rules — common in other states — haven’t yet made their way to South Dakota. It’s about time.

The more training and more training time that can be offered to new drivers, the better. The talk is so much about proper safety training for firearms, for instance, yet an inexperienced or distracted driver behind the wheel is the greater, more immediate danger every day.

Limiting the number of passengers in a vehicle is a big one. It lessens the chance for distraction and, frankly, puts fewer lives at risk with drivers who are still very inexperienced.

Taking away smartphones also sends the message to young drivers that this is serious business. Some might see that rule as unenforceable, but we see it as another chance to build good driving habits at the start and to make parents more aware and proactive of the dangers their kids might put themselves into.

And while we’ve advocated in the past for a full texting ban for all drivers, beginning with this class of drivers is a fine start.