Published February 08 2011
UPDATED: North Dakota House approves texting-while-driving banBISMARCK — A bill that would ban texting while driving in North Dakota barely passed the state House on Tuesday.
The 50-41 vote allowed the bill to now move on to the Senate.
The House Transportation Committee deadlocked over the bill last week, and several committee members wanted to see an overall distracted driving bill pass instead.
However, the distracted driving bill failed on the floor with a 47-44 vote with three members absent. The bill needed 48 supporters to pass.
Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said texting may be the primary concern of people now, but future technology could change that. He supported the distracted driving bill, saying the texting bill focuses on just one form of distracted driving.
Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, said the city of Grand Forks had these same discussions before it implemented its texting while driving ban.
However, it was clear that the public felt a texting while driving ban was needed, he said.
“Texting is inherently dangerous not only to the people who are doing it, but to everybody else on the road,” Glassheim said. “That’s the reason we make laws related to driving is to protect innocent people from what somebody else is doing.”
Some legislators expressed concerns about the penalties in the bill, which now includes a $100 fine for a violation.
A first offense also means 2 points against a license, while a second offense would be worth 4 points. A third or subsequent violation would result in a suspended license for a year.
Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, said he disagreed with losing a license for a year without an opportunity to earn it back.
The ban’s ability to be enforced and whether people follow current bans was also discussed.
Rep. Don Vigesaa, R-Cooperstown, ended the debate by telling his fellow lawmakers to think about how the average voter back home would want them to vote.
Now that the bill will move to the Senate, the Senate Transportation Committee will have its own hearing on the matter.
Chairman Sen. Gary Lee, R-Casselton, said it’s premature to say what action his committee may take on the bill. He said they will keep an open mind and see what people have to say.