SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Lawmakers in the South Dakota House have passed a bill that would make texting while driving a criminal offense. This will raise the fine violators would face.

The current law includes a $100 fine for highway drivers who text. Under the considered legislation in Pierre, that fine will increase to $500 for all drivers.

Sheriff Limoges of Union County said other states across the nation are getting behind making texting while driving a criminal offense. He said it won’t completely stop drivers, but it’s meant to make people more aware of the consequences.

“[The] main goal is keeping people safe. If you’re distracted driving, texting is distracted driving, crashes are going to occur and injury and loss of life. People are still going to do it. Hopefully, we can touch base with the majority of the public that will listen and obey the law,” Sheriff Limoges said.

Shannon Larson said increasing the penalty to a criminal offense will make her think twice before texting and driving.

“I think if the fines are high enough for it yeah, people will stop doing it. I definitely wouldn’t text while driving if I knew there was a penalty for it,” Larson said.

That is something Iowa drivers have been dealing with since 2017. Although only a misdemeanor in Iowa, drivers are prohibited from using a hand-held electronic device to write, send, or view an electronic message while driving.

“I think we’ve seen a little bit of an improvement now that people realize it is dangerous enough they’ve made it illegal to do in Iowa. Now in South Dakota that I think it’s helped get this in people’s consciousness to make them a little better drivers. Obviously, there’s still going to be people out there doing it but now there’s a way to keep them accountable,” Sgt. Jeremy McClure said.

“I don’t think it’ll stop it entirely. Its similar to speeding. You’re going to get a ticket if you speed, but people are going to do it until they get caught.” It’s made me a little more aware,” Sioux City resident Mark Svoboda said.

If the South Dakota Senate Transportation Committee approves the bill it will need full senate support before heading to Governor Noem’s desk.