BISMARCK — North Dakota transportation officials have recorded only two violations of a year-old policy restricting state employees' cellphone use while driving.
The state Department of Transportation implemented the policy in July 2018 preventing state workers from using cellphones while driving state fleet vehicles or their own car while on the clock. The policy is more restrictive than state law for other members of the public and was introduced as part of the state's "Vision Zero" traffic safety campaign.
Karin Mongeon, the DOT's safety division director, said Friday, Aug. 16, the policy was meant to "set the tone for safety." But department officials acknowledged some violations can be hard to catch because they aren't illegal, meaning reports may come from members of the public or other state workers.
Still, Mongeon maintained the policy has been effective. The DOT, which manages the state fleet, wasn't aware of any crashes involving cellphone use in those vehicles in the past year.
"Employees tend to follow policies to the best of their ability," Mongeon said.
Policy violators face penalties determined by the state agency that employs them. A spokeswoman for the Department of Mineral Resources said an employee was required to retake a distracted driving course after they came to a stop at another state location and answered the phone using hands-free technology.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which employs the other violator, said she likely wouldn't be able to provide information on any disciplinary action taken Friday.
North Dakota law prohibits text messaging for all drivers, and drivers under the age of 18 are banned from using any electronic communication devices. Motorists can also cited for other types of distracted driving if they commit another traffic violation or are involved in a crash.
There were more than 1,400 distracted driving violations posted to the state's driver's license system in 2018, the DOT said.
Minnesota recently implemented a new law that makes it illegal to hold a cellphone behind the wheel.
Nationally, 3,166 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.