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Lawmakers Prefer Drunks on Horses, Bikes

February 1, 2006

PIERRE, South Dakota (AP) _ South Dakota lawmakers decided Wednesday that it’s better to have drunks on horses and bicycles instead of behind the wheel of an auto or truck.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill 6-1 that will exempt horses and bikes from drunken driving laws, meaning intoxicated people who either pedal or saddle up to get home after a night at the bar cannot be arrested for drunken driving.

Sen. Lee Schoenbeck said it will make the roads safer for other motorists.

``If I have to choose ... a problem drunk with 1,500 pound or 2,000 pounds of metal coming at 50 miles an hour or a two-wheel Schwinn, I’m going to win and my family is going to win,″ he said. ``I’d much rather have a drunk on the bike.″

A former lawman, Sen. Gene Abdallah, agreed. Better to have drunks on bikes and horses than motor vehicles, he said.

``I can’t believe that a horse is going to intentionally run into anything,″ Abdallah said. ``This is a good avenue to get some people home.″

Prosecutors opposed the bill. Chuck Schroyer, lobbyist for the State’s Attorneys Association, said there have been arrests in several counties for riding horses while intoxicated.

In one instance, a drunken rider passed out and his horse was struck by a car, injuring several people, Schroyer said.

``There are people that are injured that are in control of these instruments,″ he said. ``This does happen in the real world.″

Legislators, however, said prosecutors still can charge drunken riders on horses and bicycles. Rather than drunken driving, they can be charged with disorderly conduct, it was suggested.

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