BISMARCKâ€”It looks like North Dakota is headed for a statewide texting while driving ban after all.
After lengthy debate, the state Senate voted 32-15 to approve the proposal after softening the penalty.
The original bill penalized drivers with a $100 fine and two points for a first offense. By the time a driver reached a third offense, his or her license would have been suspended for a year.
The bill went into the Senate with a do-not pass recommendation from the Senate Transportation Committee partly due to concern over the penalty.
However, Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, split the bill into two during the floor session to separate the penalties considered harsh from the rest of the bill.
Under the revised bill, the penalty for texting while driving would be a $100 fine.
House Bill 1195 seeks to ban drivers from using wireless communication devices to compose, read or send electronic messages. This included checking e-mail, texting, instant messaging and using the Internet.
A September 2010 Highway Loss Data Institute report states 30 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws banning motorists from texting while driving.
Sen. Gary Lee, R-Casselton, opposed the bill, saying it would be difficult to enforce. There is also no proof other than anecdotal evidence that a law would result in behavior change, he said.
Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, disagreed, saying having a law in place does change behavior. Sen. Dave Nething, R-Jamestown, said North Dakotans support a texting ban.
Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, opposed the bill, calling it a â€œslippery slopeâ€ when individual behaviors are targeted. She asked legislators if they want to list every individual item that can cause people to be distracted.
â€œI donâ€™t think we do,â€ she said. â€œWe ought not to be in the business of micromanaging. We should be setting general policy.â€
Before voting on the texting bill, senators also approved a revised version of the distracted driving bill. House Bill 1190 now revises the care required section of state law and says individuals may not operate a vehicle in a careless, imprudent or inattentive manner.
Drivers may also not drive in a manner that creates a hazard to the life or property of another person, without regard to existing conditions or without giving warnings as reasonably necessary for safe operation.
The fine would range from $30 to $50.
The House now needs to review what the Senate did with both bills to determine if it agrees.
Texting while driving vote breakdown:
Andrist, Berry, Bowman, Dever, Dotzenrod, Erbele, Fischer, Flakoll, Freborg, Grindberg, Heckaman, Hogue, Holmberg, J. Lee, Kilzer, Klein, Krebsbach, Luick, Lyson, Mathern, Nelson, Nething, O’Connell, Olafson, Robinson, Schneider, Sorvaag, Taylor, Uglem, Wanzek, Wardner, Warner
Burckhard, Christmann, Cook, G. Lee, Laffen, Larsen, Marcellais, Miller, Murphy, Nodland, Oehlke, Schaible, Sitte, Stenehjem, Triplett