North Dakota’s texting while driving law is a little silly. Section 39-08-23 of the North Dakota Century Code makes it illegal to “use a wireless communications device to compose, read, or send an electronic message.” It specifically exempts the use of using a GPS (or the GPS app on your phone), making phone calls, or other things.
So when a group of law enforcement agencies around the state announce a “high intensity” enforcement effort targeting cell phone use while driving, you have to wonder just how they’re going to do it. How is a cop, spying you in your car with a cell phone in your hand, going to know you’re sending a text message as opposed to dialing a number?
They likely won’t, and therein lays the rub with this law. Add in the fact that there’s no evidence that these sort of laws actually reduce distracted driving, or that they make our roads any safer, and what we’re left with is a situation where cops are going to be harassing citizens for no purpose other than because “distracted driving” is has been a political fad the last couple of years.
I suspect our law enforcement officers have better things to do than to spend their time on a supposed distracted driving epidemic that doesn’t appear to actually exist.
Here’s the press release:
Enforcement targets texting drivers
Expect a $100 ticket
North Dakota’s ban on texting while driving gets its first high-intensity workout this month. The law has been exercised by enforcement agencies since it went into effect August 1, 2011. But, with the exception of Fargo, most communities have not seen a major emphasis on texting enforcement until now. Seven urban police departments will pump up anti-texting traffic stops during April.
Officers in Bismarck, Devils Lake, Dickinson, Fargo,
Grand Forks, Jamestown and Minot are participating.
Drivers suspected of texting will be pulled over. Officers will employ new tactics and increased patrols to identify and stop drivers who appear to be using a mobile device to text, email or access the Internet while driving. The $100 penalty applies even if the driver is stopped at a stop sign or stoplight.
Officers from police departments gathered in Bismarck in February for special training on how to detect texting and driving offenders. The texting enforcement teams in Dickinson are being managed by Traffic Safety Officer James Petersen of the Dickinson Police Department.
“We learned to identify drivers who may be accessing a communications device to send data by their posture and other signs. Drivers who are inattentive are also likely to show other driving failures, like not maintaining their lane or delayed movement on a green light,” said Officer Petersen.
“During each enforcement shift, we will station observers at intersections or other locations with a high volume of traffic. We will also have observers as passengers in unmarked vehicles. Each observer will radio ahead to a patrol car—then the uniformed officer will issue the citation to the texting driver,” explained Petersen.
North Dakota was one of only seven states to receive federal grant funding for texting and driving prevention. The campaign this April is the first statewide texting enforcement campaign for the North Dakota Department of Transportation. Officers are expected to log a substantial number of traffic stops for potential texting citations.
Other high-intensity texting enforcement periods will follow this summer.