Commercial drivers face loss of licenses if caught using hand-helds

Terry Woster, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, says this morning that South Dakota faces the loss of 5 percent of its federal highway funding if the Legislature doesn’t adopt Senate Bill 13. In a nutshell SB 13 would make use of a hand-held mobile telephone by a driver while behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle “a serious offense.” That would be the same category as excessive speeding, careless or reckless driving, eluding police or a variety of other significant unlawful acts. Holders of commercial driver licenses already can lose their CDL for texting while driving. Using a hand-held mobile telephone now would also be grounds for revocation, suspension or disqualification of a CDL.

The legislation is sponsored for the department by the Senate Transportation Committee, whose chairman is Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell. Says Woster: “This is the last session to adopt this before the threat of that loss of funds kicks in.” He adds, “SB 13 has no impact on the use of handhelds by non-CDL holding drivers.”

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About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

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