By: Jeffrey Lapin

Driver eating donutCities and states have or are considering laws beyond just no texting and driving. One city, Huron, South Dakota, has adopted an ordinance that prohibits driver’s from activities that could be distracting, such as eating while driving. This is a good first step in trying to reduce distracted driving although enforcement could become an issue.

HURON, SOUTH DAKOTAMap of Huron, South Dakota

Huron is located in Beadle County, South Dakota, which is approximately 166 miles northwest of Norfolk, Nebraska. In 2010, Huron had a population of 12,592. On December 3, 2012, the City Commission of Huron, South Dakota, passed a “distracted” driving ordinance that goes beyond just texting and driving, it prohibits any activity that can distract a driver.  The new ordinance makes certain types of distracted driving a primary offense, meaning police officers can pull someone over for the violation itself; there is no need for the driver to have committed another traffic violation. Other “distracted” driving activities are secondary violations that require another traffic violation, such as speeding, before a driver can be cited.

Under the Ordinance, only composing and sending a text, email or image is a primary offense for most drivers; receiving or viewing these items is a secondary offense for most drivers. Younger drivers and drivers of school vehicles have more restrictions than other drivers. Eating, drinking, putting on make-up and anything else that can distract a driver is prohibited, but only punishable as a secondary offense.

As of the end of 2012, South Dakota does not have a statewide law on distracted driving. Other cities within South Dakota do have distracted driving laws.


Relevant portions of Huron’s new distracted driving ordinance provide (formatting altered and some citations and portions omitted):

16.12.300 Distracted Driving.

(a) Definitions

(1) “Distracted driving” means inattentive driving while operating a moving motor vehicle that results in the unsafe operation of the vehicle where such operation is caused by reading, writing, performing personal grooming, interacting with pets or unsecured cargo, using personal communications technologies, or engaging in any other activity which causes distractions.
(2) “Hands-free accessory” means an attachment, add-on, built-in feature, or addition to a mobile telephone, whether or not permanently installed in a motor vehicle, that when used allows the vehicle operator to maintain both hands on the steering wheel.
(3) “Mobile telephone” means a cellular, analog, wireless, or digital telephone capable of sending or receiving telephone messages without an access line for service.
(4) “Other electronic device” includes, but is not limited to, hand-held computers, pagers,  and video games.
(5) “Text” or “texting” means using an electronic wireless communications device to compose or send a written message or image using a text-based communication system, including communications referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail (email).
(6) “Use” means talking, placing, texting, or receiving a call, or attempting to place, text,  or receive a call, on a wireless communications device, including a mobile telephone.

(b) Distracted Driving Prohibited:

(1) No person while operating a moving motor vehicle on a public street shall use an electronic wireless communications device to compose or send a written message or image using a text-based communication system, including communications commonly referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail (e-mail).

(i)  Enforcement … shall be a primary offense.

(4)  Distracted driving while operating a moving motor vehicle that results in the unsafe operation of the vehicle where such operation is caused by reading, writing, performing personal grooming, interacting with pets or unsecured cargo, using personal communications technologies, or engaging in any other activity which causes distractions, is prohibited.

(i)  Enforcement … shall be a secondary offense.

The law went into effect on January 1, 2013. However, the Huron police have indicated they will mostly only be issuing warnings during January so drivers can get a sense of what is and what is not permitted.


Gary Will, Huron’s Chief of Police, when asked about the new ordinance stated,

We’re punishing bad behavior. I can still make a phone call or eat my hamburger while driving cross country as long as it doesn’t cause me to drive in an unsafe manner.

We don’t want to have to write any tickets at all. You know, we hope people will just drive with less distractions.

In addition, during one of the City Commission meeting on the ordinance one Commissioner said, “The city’s not saying that people can’t do these things, they just need to be safe when doing it.”

There is a question about how officers will distinguish whether a driver is sending a message versus just viewing one.

The City of Bowling Green, Ohio, had considered a similar ban on distracted driving. It would have given police authority to cite drivers, as a primary offense, who were not devoting their full attention to operating their vehicles. The ordinance was unanimously rejected after drawing heavy criticism.

Nebraska does have laws regarding distracted driving. A prior blog post, Distracted Driving, Communication Devices and Nebraska: A Summary of the Law, summarized Nebraska’s law on this topic.

POST SOURCES: City of Huron, South Dakota City: Commission Meeting Minutes for December 3, 2012; Keloland: Huron Distracted Driving Law Begins; Plainsman: Texting and driving ban gets city’s approval; Plainsman: City proposes ban on texting and driving; The Blaze: South Dakota City’s New Distracted Driving Ban to Include…Eating; Sentinel-Tribune: Distracted driving ordinance rejected in BG; Hands-Free Info: Ohio: Cell phone laws, legislation; New York DailyNews: Get off the road: South Dakota city cracks down on drivers who eat, read and text while driving



Lapin Law Offices urges all drivers to focus their full attention on driving. DO NOT DRIVE WHILE DISTRACTED.

Lapin Law Offices represents drivers, passengers and pedestrians and their families that are injured or killed by distracted drivers. You can learn more about us by calling us anytime (24/7) at 402-421-8033 (Lincoln), 888-525-8819 (Toll Free) or submitting your case online (Contact Us). We offer a free initial consultation and do not collect a fee unless we get money for you.

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