Two separate but similar bills were approved this week by the North Dakota Senate, one banning texting while driving and one making it illegal to engage in "distracted driving."
We're glad HB 1195 banning texting while driving was passed. It will now be sent back to the House because the Senate removed language that would require the loss of a drivers license for a year for drivers caught texting one too many times. As passed, the offense would lead to a $100 fine and two points on a drivers license.
While we understand the intent of the distracted driving bill, HB 1190, we much prefer the specific ban on texting in HB 1195. "Distracted driving" is too open to interpretation.
The proposed law in HB 1190 says it would be a primary offense to engage in driving that is careless, inattentive or unsafe. Will that mean the same thing to every law enforcement officer? Does driving and eating constitute distracted driving? How about talking on a cell phone and driving? What about fiddling with the volume on the stereo? An animated discussion with your spouse? Yelling at your children in the back seat? Drowsy driving? What if you never take your eyes off the road while you're eating a burger and fries? Wouldn't current careless driving laws already cover such behavior? We see confusion coming from this law, among drivers and law enforcement officials.
In contrast, the proposed ban on texting is specific, it's a primary offense and the $100 penalty and two license points will be stiff enough to discourage the behavior among many drivers. Not that everyone who is texting while driving is a young adult, but we've seen our fair share of young drivers barreling down Broadway with a few fingers on the steering wheel and their thumbs on their cell phone keyboard, typing or sending a text message. Under the new law, a couple of $100 fines should help put a stop to that.
Specifics aside, the best news from this ongoing discussion is that lawmakers and the residents of North Dakota now have further proof that they care about the safety of drivers and that can only be a good thing.