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ND targets out-of-state speeders: Legislator seeks incentive for Oil Patch workers to slow down

BISMARCK -- Tioga Rep. Bob Skarphol is tired of seeing the same out-of-state license plates on vehicles driven by new western North Dakota workers.

The Republican who lives in the heart of North Dakota's oil boom has introduced a bill that would require people with out-of-state license plates to pay speeding fines of their home state.

"I think it's gotten to the point where something needs to change," Skarphol said of the out-of-state license plates, which often seem to outnumber North Dakota plates in the Oil Patch.

Under House Bill 1189, law enforcement would have the discretion to determine if the driver caught speeding is living and working in North Dakota and issue a higher fine. The higher fines would not apply to people visiting the state, Skarphol said.

The bill aims to give drivers who are living in North Dakota an incentive to update their license plates and to promote more enforcement, Skarphol said.

"We are losing that revenue as a state and still providing the roads that those people drive on," he said.

Fargo Rep. Ed Gruchalla, retired from the North Dakota Highway Patrol, said he supports increasing fines to deter speeding, but would prefer to see fines raised across the board.

Gruchalla supports House Bill 1048, which came out of the interim Transportation Committee, which would raise speeding fines for all drivers.

For example, a driver cited for driving 75 in a 65-mph zone would pay $20 today, but under the bill, the fine would be $50.

"That's maybe a more equitable way to go than to pick on the out-of-staters," said Gruchalla, a Democrat.

The bill includes a sliding scale depending on the speed limit zone and how much over the limit the motorist is driving. More severe violations lead to substantially higher fines.

The bill has a hearing scheduled Thursday.

Skarphol says his bill would funnel the extra revenue from the additional speeding fines back to the law enforcement agency that issued the citation.

Other bill sponsors are Reps. David Drovdal, Arnegard, Patrick Hatlestad, Williston, and Sens. Ron Carlisle, Bismarck, and Stan Lyson, Williston, all Republicans.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol has not taken a position on the bill, said Sgt. Tom Iverson.

Law enforcement does issue citations for drivers who don't have the proper license plates or vehicle registration, Iverson said.

However, it can be difficult to enforce because troopers have to rely on the drivers to determine if they are temporary workers or long-term residents, Iverson said.

"A lot of times we have to take their word for it of what their situation is," Iverson said.

For workers who are in North Dakota on a temporary basis, the North Dakota Department of Transportation issues temporary motor vehicle registrations.

For the first 18 months of the 2011-13 biennium, the state issued about 11,650 temporary motor vehicle registrations, according to the department.