Between the Lines: ‘Points’ should be counted

Back when I was much younger (and quite a bit more foolish) I had a raging case of "Janklowitis."

It isn't some strange disease, although if I could have simply received a vaccination to make me immune to this malady, I would have been first in line at the clinic.

Janklowitis is the term I use for my propensity, years ago, to speed once I got behind the wheel. I was living in a small town at the time, and I always had a good excuse to go beyond the speed limit once I hit the wide-open roads of eastern South Dakota.

I had deadlines to meet, places to go, people to see, copy to drop off at my production office, a photo to take.

On free weekends, there was a young lady living in Madison I liked to visit (she would eventually become my wife, even though while we were dating the Janklowitis was at a fever pitch).

I was no brilliant evader of law enforcement. I had no "fuzz buster" in my car, no CB radio. Another sign of my rather dumb attitudes regarding highway safety: the small community I was living in at the time was the home base of a SD Highway Patrol trooper. It wasn't enough to stop me.

I think he eventually knew to keep his eyes open for the tiny blur of my subcompact car going down the state and county highways in his jurisdiction

He stopped me. Quite a few times. And wrote a lot of speeding tickets. And I begrudgingly paid each one.

And kept on speeding.

I didn't really think of it much. Never did a mental exercise on how I was able to keep on driving, and keep on speeding, even after receiving several tickets in the span of only one year.

I guess I figured that paying the fine for each ticket was simply good enough to keep me in good standing.

What I've never realized is that you can be a repeat offender in exceeding the speed limit in South Dakota and it doesn't cost you any "points."

The "point system" is something most drivers are well aware of. In South Dakota, you can commit such traffic offenses as reckless driving or running red lights and be assessed points.

Get too many points, and you can lose your license. But speeding is explicitly excluded from the points system. The exclusion occurred sometime in the 1980s, perhaps before I began terrorizing local highways with my lead foot.

Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, said last week that he will likely try once again to add speeding to the list of offenses that assess drivers points on their licenses.

Under his proposal, speeders would receive between one and three points for each offense. Before you get all worked up please consider this: It takes 15 points in 12 months or 22 points in 24 months before a license is suspended.

It could be argued that those penalties are rather weak. But last year, the South Dakota House rejected a similar bill.

Back in the 1980s, when speeding was excluded from the point system in South Dakota, the speed limit on just about every highway, including the interstate roadways, was 55 miles per hour.

Shortly after the December 1995 repeal of the 65/55 mph National Maximum Speed Law, South Dakota raised its general rural speed limits to 75 mph on interstate highways and 65 mph on other roads along with 70 on a few four-lane highways, such as Highway 50 that runs right past Vermillion.

It means that people who speed in South Dakota these days likely may be traveling faster than I was back in the day when I would occasionally push my car to 70 mph on a highway with a 55 mph limit, only to find flashing red lights in my rear-view mirror.

I don't have any statistics available to determine whether speeding is a growing problem in our state. I would hope that the higher speed limits we've enjoyed for some time would cut down South Dakotans' propensity to speed.

Those who do choose to exceed posted limits, especially on interstate highways, can easily reach very dangerous speeds.

That's why we believe Hickey's proposal has merit.

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