The Senate Transportation Committee gave unfavorable recommendations to bills that would ban texting and driving and create penalties for distracted driving.
House Bill 1190 would make distracted driving a secondary offense, meaning officers could pull over sidetracked drivers only if they were already doing something else wrong. Drivers could be fined $100 for a variety of things that take the driver's sight off the task at hand.
House Bill 1195 bans texting while driving, giving a first offender a $100 fine and two penalty points against the license. A second offender would get a four-point penalty. Drivers who accumulate 12 or more points would have their licenses suspended for up to a year.
Some of the members had problems with the fine amount for the bills.
"That could be a $100 fine for hesitating at a stoplight. That seems way over the top to me," said Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, on the distracted driving bill.
That was not a problem for everyone, however.
"We haven't adjusted many of our fines since the '50s and '60s," Sen. George Nodland , R-Dickinson, said. "We need to look at increasing all our fines everywhere we can in the state of North Dakota because they're not deterring anyone."
The language of the distracted driving ban also raised questions.
Sitte said the bill was perhaps "opening the door to all vague and nebulous activity," while not targeting other poor driving behavior like failure to use a blinker - a personal pet peeve of Sitte's.
Still, committee Chairman Sen. Gary Lee, R-Casselton, saw it as an alternative to the texting and driving bill, which he saw as onerous.
After the meeting, Lee said the discussion also centered around problems with enforceability for officers who thought the bill should be a primary offense.
Of course, there were perceived problems with the texting and driving ban.
"I'm bothered by the idea that you can lose your license for a year," said Sen. Dave Oehlke, R-Devils Lake. "That seems a bit overboard."
Sen. Dave Nething, R-Jamestown, proposed the idea of amending the penalties on the ban to be less harsh, but there were no takers.
Both bills were eventually given a "do not pass" recommendation and sent to the floor.
(Reach reporter Rebecca Beitsch at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)