By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor
A bill on its way to the governor’s desk could soon cost travelers in North Dakota quite a bit more than mere pocket change for making a bad driving decision.
The Legislature approved a bill that would authorize tougher penalties for drivers who use roads closed due to harsh weather. Approval of SB2157 clears the way for the bill to move to Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s desk.
The issue was pushed to the forefront after a New Year’s blizzard in the state. The stretch of Interstate 94 from Bismarck to Fargo was closed. Also closed was Interstate 29 from the South Dakota line to the Canadian border.
According to reports, portions of the roadways were shut down for three days. State troopers issued tickets to 69 drivers for being on the interstate while it was closed.
North Dakota law now limits fines for violators to $20. The bill would authorize $250 fines for travelers who drive around barricades to access the road. Driving on a road that isn’t barricaded would carry a $100 fine.
Supporters say stiff penalties are needed because driving on closed roads is dangerous for the violators and for the personnel called out to help them.
Critics say the penalty would be too stiff, and that there are times when people have very good reasons to go around the gates for closed roads.
To view other legislative activities of interest for North Dakota, click here.
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