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Insight from WFPD: Use of wireless communication devices limited by legislature

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opinion Fargo, 58102
Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

The last legislative session in Bismarck saw changes to the North Dakota Century Code limiting the use of wireless communication devices. The changes include the prohibition of texting by drivers over the age of seventeen. Drivers under the age 18 are prohibited from using the devices for any purpose. The applicable sections of the NDCC are listed below.

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39-08-23. Use of a wireless communications device prohibited.

1. The operator of a motor vehicle that is part of traffic may not use a wireless communications device to compose, read, or send an electronic message.

2. Under this section:

a. "Electronic message" means a self-contained piece of digital communication that is designed or intended to be transmitted between physical devices. The term includes e-mail, a text message, an instant message, a command or request to access a world wide web page, or other data that uses a commonly recognized electronic communications protocol. The term does not include:

(1) Reading, selecting, or entering a telephone number, an extension number, or voice mail retrieval codes and commands into an electronic device for the purpose of initiating or receiving a telephone or cellular phone call or using voice commands to initiate or receive a telephone or cellular phone call;

(2) Inputting, selecting, or reading information on a global positioning system device or other navigation system device;

(3) Using a device capable of performing multiple functions, such as fleet management systems, dispatching devices, smart phones, citizen band radios, music players, or similar devices, for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited;

(4) Voice or other data transmitted as a result of making a telephone or cellular phone call; or

(5) Data transmitted automatically by a wireless communication device without direct initiation by an individual.

b. "Traffic" means operation of a motor vehicle while in motion or for the purposes of travel on any street or highway and includes a temporary stop or halt of motion, such as at an official traffic-control signal or sign. The term does not include a motor vehicle that is lawfully parked.

3. This section does not apply if a wireless communications device is used for obtaining emergency assistance to report a traffic accident, medical emergency, or serious traffic hazard or to prevent a crime about to be committed, in the reasonable belief that an individual's life or safety is in immediate danger, or in an authorized emergency vehicle while in the performance of official duties.

39-08-24. Use of an electronic communication device by minor prohibited.

An individual at least sixteen and under eighteen years of age who has been issued a class D license may not operate an electronic communication device to talk, compose, read, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle that is in motion unless the sole purpose of operating the device is to obtain emergency assistance, to prevent a crime about to be committed, or in the reasonable belief that an individual's life or safety is in danger.

Additional changes were made through amendments of NDCC 39-06-04 Instruction permit. The change was made to subsection 5 and is included here.

5. The permittee may not operate an electronic communication device to talk, compose, read, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle that is in motion unless the sole purpose of operating the device is to obtain emergency assistance, to prevent a crime about to be committed, or in the reasonable belief that an individual's life or safety is in danger.

The final change relating to wireless communications devices was made in NDCC 39-06-17 Restricted licenses - Penalty for violation. Section 6 c now reads as follows:

6. A restricted license issued under subsection 3 to a child at least fourteen years of age to operate a parent's or guardian's automobile authorizes the license holder to drive the type or class of motor vehicle specified on the restricted license only under the following conditions:

c. An individual holding a restricted driver's license driving a motor vehicle may not operate an electronic communication device to talk, compose, read, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle that is in motion unless the sole purpose of operating the device is to obtain emergency assistance, to prevent a crime about to be committed, or in the reasonable belief that an individual's life or safety is in danger.

Research and crash analysis has shown an increase in traffic crashes and unsafe driving incidents relating to the use of wireless communication devices. The distraction a driver experiences while using a hand held device limits their ability to recognize and react to a hazardous condition. Educating drivers through public service announcements and the enforcement of distracted driving behaviors can reduce crashes and save lives. Do your part for traffic safety.

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