What about a bus? A taxi? Or a designated driver?

What about a bus? A taxi? Or a designated driver?
We South Dakotans.

We're an independent lot, a group of folks who'd prefer to just do things our way, on our terms, whether it makes sense or not.

In many ways, that explains how HB1190 was introduced this legislative session and as this column is being written, it's still alive in the halls of the state Capitol.


The bill, if approved, would mean that a person riding a bike or an animal, such as a horse, would not be subject to the same rules and regulations that South Dakotans must follow when they are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

In other words, the legislation, is designed to allow South Dakotans to ride bikes, trikes "other unpowered foot-pedal conveyances" or horses or other animals while they are drunk.

The bill was first introduced in the South Dakota House of Representatives. From there, it was kicked to the House Transportation Committee, where it was approved on a 10-1 vote.

The House of Representatives voted on the bill Jan. 26, giving it a "do pass" status with a 66-2 vote.

The bill has been read in the South Dakota Senate, and was scheduled to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 1.

HB1190, according to Rep. Tom Hennies, is designed to make sure people who don't get behind the wheel after drinking aren't punished for finding a safer transportation option.

"Everybody laughs because they think, ?Hey, the hicks in South Dakota can ride a horse drunk,' " Hennies told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

But he explained that the legislation � a holdover from a failed bill to overhaul the state's criminal code two years ago � was not about giving people the right to ride drunk, but rather about stopping drunken driving.

"We have had people that were prosecuted for fourth time DUI on a bicycle � you can go to state penitentiary for five years on a fourth-time DUI," Hennies said. "We've got to have better sense than that."

Chad Pickard, who owns the Spoke N Sport bicycle shop, says he understands the good intentions behind the legislation but thinks taking away the legal status of bicycles on state roads spells trouble for cyclists.

"It's not so much an objection to the bill. The issue is that there's someone who wants to get people who are drunk off of vehicles into a safer setting ? we appreciate that," Pickard said.

But, he asked, "What's going to happen if you take your bike out south of town, and someone runs into you? If you don't have any rights, what happens?"

Pickard said he was concerned that if cyclists have no legal right to be on the highway, insurance companies will refuse to pay claims in an accident. Cyclists struggle for rights on South Dakota's highways every day, he said.

Hennies said he's heard from cycling advocates on the issue.

"I have answered them all, and they're wrong," he said. "They just won't accept the answer. It's not a motor vehicle. They'll still be subject to the laws inside any city."

Being subject to laws is one thing. Not posing a hazard, whether you're driving a car or riding a bike or a horse or a mule or a lawn mower or a wheelchair ? the list goes on and on ? is another.

We can understand � to a point � how reasonable people can conclude that it seems silly to be able to be arrested for riding a horse or riding a bike while intoxicated. After all, they certainly are a much better option than operating a motor vehicle under the influence? Right?

A bit of research uncovers the fallacy of this argument. Time and again, drunk people on horses, cars and other modes of transportation other than automobiles have often been the cause of accidents. Ride a bike when drunk and you'll likely weave all over the street. And it often doesn't take much to spook a horse under the best of conditions. A drunk on a horse on a highway with lots of traffic is, in our view, just asking for trouble.

We can think of much better transportation options for intoxicated people, such as a bus, a taxi or a designated driver.

We hope the state Legislature realizes that law-abiding drivers are counting on more than just horse sense to stay safe while traveling South Dakota highways.

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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