Most North Dakota residents would have to admit to using their cell phone or other tech device while driving recently. Distracted driving is a major issue in the state and across the country, as more and more people are becoming increasingly dependent upon mobile devices. Cell phones are playing such a major role in accident incidents, in fact, that law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are cracking down on distracted driving offenders with especially severe penalties.

In August of 2014, a 54-year-old woman was reportedly riding her bicycle in a traffic lane at the foot of a hill when she was struck by a vehicle. She ultimately succumbed to her injuries. The man accused of causing the fatal collision now faces a class C felony charge of negligent homicide for distracted driving. According to the results of a North Dakota Highway Patrol accident investigation, the motorist failed to see the bicyclist on the road because he was taking a cell phone picture of himself while he was driving.

In addition to determining that the defendant in the case did not attempt to break before striking the bicycle rider from behind, authorities determined that he called 911 one minute after taking a picture on his cell phone. He was also accused of driving over the rumble strip and fog line on the road.

A source close to the defendant in the case argued that the bicycle rider was at least partly at fault for causing the fatal collision, and that it was inappropriate for the driver to face felony charges. It was also suggested that the accident victim’s legal connections and family prevented the defendant from being issued misdemeanor charges.

Source: Grand Forks Herald, “Niagara, N.D., man accused of taking selfie during crash that killed triathlete,” Emily Welker, June 2, 2015