April is distracted driving awareness month, which means that safety advocates and lawmakers will put the issue front and center, trying to find a solution to eliminating distracted driving, which the federal government says is responsible for 6,000 deaths and 500,000 car accident injuries each year. More than 30 states now have some sort of law against distracted driving, so you can expect the remaining states to catch some negative attention this month. North Dakota seems to have missed this scrutiny, as its Senate passed two major anti-distraction bills right in time for Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Before this week, North Dakota remained one of the few states with no law banning texting or the use of handheld cell phones. Most states, including California, can only enforce distracted driving laws if the driver has first been pulled over for another offence. But the new bills will transform North Dakota into one of the states toughest on distracted drivers, by calling the action a primary offence, meaning an officer can stop any vehicle in which texting behind the wheel is evident. Texts will carry a $100 fine, and talking on the phone will be a $30 or $50 fine, depending on what the officer sees as appropriate.
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has made the prevention of distracted driving a key priority of his administration. But while the more populated states like California and New Jersey have embraced laws against the dangerous practice, some rural areas have said it wasn’t necessary in their case. For this reason, North Dakota’s new distracted driving laws could be a major win for the prospects of stricter distracted driving laws nationwide, and support for the idea – which LaHood has supported – of turning the issue into a primary offense.
But for now, we’re just glad to see North Dakota get on the anti-distracted driving bandwagon. Congratulations and stay tuned for more information on Distracted Driving Awareness Month!
Photo credit: poka0059