North Dakota bill would ban cell phone use for young drivers

| Thursday, January 25, 2007

Young drivers in North Dakota would have to put away their cell phones if a state lawmaker gets his way.

Rep. Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck, has introduced a bill that would prohibit drivers under age 18 from talking on cell phones - even "hands-free" devices - while behind the wheel. Emergency calls would be exempted.

The bill is intended to ban talking, text messaging and using e-mail while driving, Klemin told The Associated Press.

Young drivers found in violation would face $20 fines and four penalty points on their driver's licenses. The penalty points could be of particular trouble for drivers under 18 who will have their license revoked and be forced to start over with driver education and training if they accumulate six or more points.

This effort follows a National Transportation Safety Board report that recommended novice drivers be prohibited from using cell phones while on the road.

The safety board says that young drivers account for only 7 percent of the driving population but are involved in 15 percent of fatal accidents. Distracted drivers take 1.5 seconds longer to respond to hazards, the agency says.

Currently, 13 states forbid young drivers to use phones while behind the wheel. Only Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have bans on all drivers from using hand-held phones. In 2008, California is slated to implement their own rule that will prohibit all drivers from talking on hand-held phones while driving.

Klemin's bill - HB1196 - is in the House Transportation Committee.

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