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Insight from WFPD: Distracted driving dangerous and illegal

There is currently much discussion in the media and across the nation on the subject of texting while driving. Currently, thirty states ban texting for all drivers. Other states have outlawed texting for certain age groups. Additional restrictions are placed on drivers in some states relating to the use of cell phones. To find out more visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at

Studies have shown that the distraction of a driver associated with texting can be just as dangerous as a person who is driving impaired by drugs or alcohol. Nationally recognized celebrities, such as Oprah, have devoted hourlong programs highlighting the dangers and the tragedies of crashes resulting from the distraction created while texting and driving.

Texting while driving is in the spotlight but you have certainly been witness to distracted driving brought on by other poor behaviors. Have you seen drivers reading books or newspapers; tuning their radio; turning to the backseat to speak with someone; wiping food from their face with one hand while holding a burger in the other; or practicing some form of personal hygiene? Regardless of what the activity was, distracted driving is dangerous and illegal.

According to the law of North Dakota:

North Dakota Century Code 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.

As you audit your own driving behaviors, you may think back to a time when you became distracted. If you were fortunate enough nothing more than an adrenaline rush occurred as the result of your near miss. Those less fortunate may have been involved in a crash where someone was hurt or even killed. A moment of distraction can bring a lifetime of consequences.

Prepare yourself before you begin your trip to avoid unnecessary distractions. Look up the address of where you are going before getting in the vehicle. If you have to refer to a map or phone book while driving pull to the side of the road and stop. If you are going to use your cell phone, use a handsfree device and avoid discussions which require your full attention to the conversation. If the conversation is going to involve a lot of detail, pull to the side and stop. Remember to check the restrictions in your area. Using any cell phone may be illegal.

Leave the reading for at home or at your destination. Plan your day so that you have time to shave or brush your teeth before leaving home. If you need to eat on the run, take three to five minutes and eat in a parking lot. You will be able to finish your meal more quickly and probably with less mess while stopped.

Be in control of what is going on in the vehicle, pull to the side of the road and stop to address others who are creating a distraction. As the driver, your responsibility is for the safety of everyone; passengers and fellow motorist alike. Don't let distractions ruin your life or someone else's.