North Dakota House kills bill to ban cell phone use for young drivers

| 2/27/2007

Young drivers in North Dakota can continue to chat on their cell phones.

House lawmakers voted 70-21 to kill a bill that would have prohibited drivers under age 18 from talking on cell phones - even "hands-free" devices - while behind the wheel. Emergency calls would have been exempted.

The bill - HB1196 - was intended to ban talking, text messaging and using e-mail while driving, Rep. Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck, told The Associated Press.

Young drivers found in violation would have faced $20 fines and four penalty points on their driver's licenses. The penalty points could have been 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.

Opponents said young drivers, and their cell phones, were being unfairly singled out. Others said the state already has laws against careless and reckless driving.

Supporters pointed to 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 from using 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 its own rule that will prohibit all drivers from talking on hand-held phones while driving.