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Insight from WFPD: Using electronic devices while driving

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

The 2011 legislative session saw the addition of regulation on the use of electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. Supported by studies which indicated a correlation between the distraction associated with the use of electronic devices and traffic crashes, the State has enacted law limiting their use. As a driver over the age of seventeen you are not allowed to compose, read or send a text message. The penalty for pleading or being found guilty is set at a one hundred dollar fee. The portion of the North Dakota Century Code outlining texting while driving follows:


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.

Further limitations are placed on drivers between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Teens are not allowed to talk on their electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. The specific language of the law follows:

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.

The intent of the legislation is to discourage driving behaviors which cause a driver to become distracted. When a driver is distracted the chances they will be involved in a motor vehicle crashes dramatically increase. Other activities can cause a person to become distracted while driving. Grooming, eating, reading and concentrating on something within the vehicle can also draw your attention away from what is happening outside. If an officer observes an unsafe driving practice they may elect to issue the driver a traffic citation for care required as defined below.

39-09-01.1. Care required in operating vehicle.

Any person driving a vehicle upon a highway shall drive the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and other conditions then existing, and shall give such warnings as are reasonably necessary for safe operation under the circumstances. No person may drive any vehicle upon a highway in a manner to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. For a violation of section 39-09-01.1, or an ordinance defining care required in driving, a fee of not less than ten dollars nor more than thirty dollars.

When operating a motor vehicle focus your attention on the task of driving. It can take less than a second for the conditions to change and a crash to occur. If you need to use your electronic device find a safe place to pull over and stop. Your safety and the safety of others should be your top priority.