PIERRE - A South Dakota Senate panel has approved a bill to ban texting while driving, a proposal that has been repeatedly rejected by the state Legislature.

The Transportation Committee voted 5-2 to send the measure to the full Senate.

Supporters hope the Legislature will look more favorably on the idea this year because some South Dakota cities have already imposed their own bans.

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have already banned texting while driving.

The measure would prohibit writing, sending or reading a text message while driving, but it would continue to allow drivers to make cellphone calls and use hands-free electronic devices.

It also would prevent cities from imposing any ordinance that varies from statewide law on texting.

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