GF to consider texting banA proposed law banning texting and driving in Grand Forks will be going before the City Council next Monday. It got approval from the council’s Safety Committee Tuesday, but without any penalty attached to it. That would be a decision for the council.
By: By Tu-Uyen Tran, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
A proposed law banning texting and driving in Grand Forks will be going before the City Council next Monday.
It got approval from the council’s Safety Committee Tuesday, but without any penalty attached to it. That would be a decision for the council.
Committee Chairman Curt Kreun said the sending text messages while driving, as he understands it, is very risky. He cited a study that found that truck drivers who text and drive are 23 times more likely to get into an accident or a near miss than if they drove normally.
City Attorney Howard Swanson, who drafted the law at the request of Council President Hal Gershman, said he’s heard of numerous reports of near misses by drivers since news of the proposed law came out.
His draft, he said, is based on laws already in existence in many other states and is similar to a draft rejected by state lawmakers the last time they convened.
Texting is defined in the draft law as “using a wireless communication device to read, view, write, compose or send an electronic message or electronic information.” This means using a cell phone or other handheld electronic devices to access the Internet, including e-mail, or to send text or picture messages.
There are several exemptions.
Emergency personnel on duty may text and drive. Everyone may do it if they’re reporting an emergency. They may do it if their car is parked, which Swanson includes parked at a stop light. They may do it if they’re using their phone to navigate.
Talking on the phone and driving is also allowed.
Swanson said the draft law would probably be considered a noncriminal traffic violation if adopted and such violations typically result in a ticket of about $10 to $20 under state law.
Kreun wanted to know how police would tell the difference between texting and dialing a phone.
Swanson said he imagines officers would check to see if both hands are on the phone — common for phones with alphanumeric keypads — or they could check phone company records.
Committee member Terry Bjerke asked if officers could ticket drivers for driving while distracted, say if they had dogs in their laps or were eating their lunches.
Swanson said the city has no law against distracted driving, and such laws have not been popular around the nation because of the difficulty of enforcement. The city has a law against reckless driving, he said, but the standards for that criminal offense are much higher.
Tu-Uyen Tran is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald
which is owned by
Forum Communications Co.