North Dakota Becomes 31st State to Pass Texting Ban

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While exempting fleet management systems for school bus drivers, North Dakota will begin enforcing a ban on using wireless communications devices for all motorists while behind the wheel.

Kenneth Steiner in the School Finance Division at the state Department of Public Instruction told School Transportation News that school bus drivers, however, are not exempted from the ban on cell phone texting. He added they will be ticketed and prosecuted like any other motorist.

In a statement, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood praised Gov. Jack Dalrymple for signing HB 1195. As of Aug. 1, 2011, texting while driving becomes a moving violation, and motorists will face fines of $100.

The ban on “electronic messages” includes texts, e-mails, instant messages or the use of the Internet. The law does not address telephone calls, the use of GPS or other navigation devices, such as fleet management systems. According to the North Dakota School Bus Driver’s Guide, two-way radios are only permitted for the business of transporting students “and should be used in a businesslike manner.”

Also exempt from the new law is the use of wireless communications devices in the event of an emergency.

Thirty states, the District of Columbia and Guam previously passed and signed laws that aim to limit texting distractions that cell phones and similar communications products can present to motorists. Meanwhile, 20 specifically have a statute on the books that bans school bus drivers from all uses of cell phones, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

Eight states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have prohibited all hand-held cell phone use while driving.