Editorial:

Editorial: by the Plain Talk The South Dakota Legislature has delivered a package to the governor's desk that, frankly, we'd like to see thrown in the trash.

SB 83, a bill that expands the driving privileges of South Dakota's youngest, least experienced motorists, has survived the rigors of debate in the transportation committees of both the state House and Senate.

It also was approved, in a rather overwhelming manner, by both the full House and Senate.

For decades, new drivers in South Dakota � basically youth 14 years of age who are issued a restricted minor's permit � have been able to drive alone from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. After that, they may drive with a parent or guardian in the front seat.

Senate Bill 83 allows young drivers "to operate a motor vehicle during the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. standard time if the motor vehicle is being operated with the permission of the holder's parent or guardian and during the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. if the motor vehicle is being operated under the direction of the holder's parent or guardian who is occupying a seat beside the holder."

The Vermillion community painfully learned last summer how quickly young people can be killed or injured in traffic accidents.

There were seven traffic fatalities in six accidents in Clay County last summer in the months of June through August.

Three of the fatalities involved people younger than 25 who lost control of their vehicles. A fourth fatality was a teen-aged passenger in an August rollover accident.

A local man was killed last summer while riding his motorcycle west of Vermillion. A trailer being pulled on a highway broke loose and drifted into his path.

Other summer fatalities involve experienced drivers. A Centerville woman died in a collision on Highway 46 in Clay County July 20.

And, in mid-August, a 50-year-old Iowa man was killed when he lost control of his automobile. His wife survived the crash.

Before year's end, the Vermillion community lost two more young people � both USD students � in traffic accidents last November.

There's one factor in each of these incidents that proponents of SB 83 likely would like all of us to know: None of these fatalities involved a driver younger than 18.

Proponents also argue the changes are needed because young people are busier these days with after school activities or jobs that extend beyond 8 p.m.

It's hard to disagree with that point. But, making the highways more dangerous for all motorists isn't the solution to that problem.

Many times, a 14-year-old's only driving experience before being issued a restricted permit comes when they spend time behind the wheel during a driver's education course.

Driving, like most skill-based activities, requires practice. And, we'll agree there are probably scores of young people in every South Dakota community that put in plenty of hours behind the wheel of a pickup or tractor on a farm as soon as their legs are long enough to reach the pedals.

To safely operate a motor vehicle, however, requires safety, judgement and a certain amount of experience. After all, why have we South Dakotans traditionally referred to these restricted licenses as "learner's permits?"

It's because these youngest of the state's young drivers need to slowly and safely learn, through experience, how to properly operate an automobile on our streets and highways.

This philosophy has served South Dakota well over the years. It shouldn't be changed.

We urge Gov. Rounds to veto SB 83.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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