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As others see it: Why not texting ban in S.D.?

The federal government may step in where the South Dakota Legislature failed.

The National Traffic Safety Board this week declared that cell-phone use among drivers is simply too dangerous to allow. The NTSB doesn't have decision-making ability, but an Associated Press report noted that the board's recommendations go a long way with federal regulators and lawmakers.

We see this as the beginning of the end of states having free rein to allow cellphone use by drivers of automated vehicles.

We do not see cell-phone conversations as being more unsafe that general conversations within the cabin of a car, or dealing with crabby children, or the odd practice of allowing a dog to sit on a driver's lap. But we do have trouble with texting and e-mailing while driving, and always have wondered why the South Dakota Legislature has been so slow to recognize these dangers.

During its last session, members of the state House Local Government Committee killed a proposal that would have banned texting while driving in South Dakota. One complaint is that the law would be difficult to enforce.

Our comment at the time -- and reiterated today -- is that creating a law that bans texting while driving would give teeth to legal recourse after unfortunate accidents caused by this irresponsible practice.

Although drunken driving still exists, there is a stigma attached to it today that wasn't present 20 or 30 years ago. More efforts have been made these past decades to decrease the frequency of drunk driving, and rightly so. It's dangerous and, often, deadly.

Texting and driving is deadly, too. The Associated Press this week noted an instance in which a teen sent or received 11 text messages in 11 minutes before a recent deadly crash.

The federal government understands how dangerous texting and driving is, and has now officially declared it. It shouldn't come as a surprise, because we all knew it anyway.

So, again: Why doesn't our Legislature enact some sort of ban on texting and/or cell-phone use for drivers?