Legislation Would Remove Liability for Motorists Hitting People or Property That Is Obstructing a Road

#NoDAPL protesters face off with North Dakota law enforcement personnel at a road block along Highway 6 near St. Anthony, North Dakota on October 5. Photo via Morton County

One tactic often deployed by the #NoDAPL activists fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline project was to obstruct roads.

The protesters marched down the middle of streets in Bismarck and Mandan. At one point they literally built a road block across a highway near the pipeline construction site, refusing to move and responding with violence when law enforcement showed up to move them away.

So perhaps the lawmakers behind HB1203 had those situations in mind when they decided to exempt motorists from liability if they hit someone blocking the road.

You can read the whole bill. It adds a section to law removing liability for damages for anyone who negligently causes injury or death to someone obstructing a road (presumably they would still be liable for any resulting criminal charges, like if they were drunk for instance).

The bill also amends an existing section of law making it clear that a non-negligent driver – someone presumably not drunk, etc., etc. – is not guilty of an offense if they hit someone blocking a road:

It’s a “run them down” bill, a reader told me about the legislation.

I suppose you could take it that way. Adding a section of law which removes any sort of liability from a driver acting negligently seems ill-advised to me. Would a negligent driver include someone purposefully trying to run over the people blocking the road? If so, do we really want to remove liability for damages from that person however negligent it is to block roads in the first place?

That said, I like the idea of protecting motorists who are driving responsibly from any liability for unintentionally injuring or killing someone who is acting negligently by trying to block a road.

What the #NoDAPL protesters did when they blocked streets and highways during their protests was irresponsible and dangerous. If some unwitting motorists hit them, and caused injury or death unintentionally, I don’t think the motorist should be held responsible.

Here’s the full legislation. The prime sponsor is Rep. Keith Kempenich, a Republican from Bowman.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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