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Put down the phone and drive. The Minot Police Department will be putting a special emphasis on texting and driving enforcement over the next four weeks.....

    MINOT, ND - Put down the phone and drive.  The Minot Police Department will be putting a special emphasis on texting and driving enforcement over the next four weeks. Officers will be looking for texting drivers and giving out citations with a $100 price tag.

    Texting while driving has been identified as one of the most dangerous things a person can do while behind the wheel. It is illegal for the operator of a motor vehicle to use a wireless communications device to compose, read, or send an electronic message. This includes vehicles that are temporarily stopped at an official traffic-control signal or stop sign. Drivers less than 18 years of age may not use an electronic communication device in any manner while the vehicle is in motion, except in an emergency.

    The price tag for distracted driving crashes amounts to $46 billion annually, according to a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The report found distracted driving one of the top three causes of economic loss due to motor vehicle crashes, behind speeding and drunk driving. Released in late May, the study was based on national 2010 data.

    The factors contributing to the economic cost of crashes include productivity loss, costs to employers, property damage, media and rehabilitation costs, congestion, legal and court costs, emergency services and insurance administration, among other items. These are the costs paid by society rather than by the individual crash victims. The cost of harm from loss of life and decreased quality of life due to injuries are an even greater burden.

    This is the first year the North Dakota Department of Transportation is using a federal grant to help fund texting and driving enforcement teams. Seven major community police departments, including Minot, are taking part in texting enforcement emphasis supported by NDDOT.


     WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - Williston Public School District No. 1 is looking to fill 18 open teacher spots just weeks before the start of the school year.  The Williston Herald reports 14 of the 18 open positions are for elementary school positions.
     Superintendent Viola LaFountaine says she feels the Williston's bad reputation and a lack of housing has made recruiting teachers difficult. Williston's housing prices have been driven up by the oil boom and many one-bedroom apartments in Williston rent for around $2,000 a month.
     LaFountaine says principals at the elementary schools are going to see if retired teachers would be interested in coming back this year. Fourteen of the district's teachers retired last year.


     FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A Fargo man has pleaded not guilty to murder in the shooting death of his roommate last month.  Twenty-four-year-old Christopher Hampton is accused of killing Randall Doehner, his cousin, at the duplex where they lived. Hampton says Doehner was trying to poison him. Doehner's fiancee, Stefani Desjarlais, disputes that.
     WDAY-TV reports that prosecutors did not discuss evidence during Wednesday's court hearing.  Hampton could face life in prison without parole if convicted. He's being held in lieu of $1 million bond.

     FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Three people have agreed to plead guilty in a Jamaican Lottery Scam targeting elderly victims in the Dakotas and elsewhere.  More two-dozen people have been indicted in the federal case being tried in North Dakota. The defendants induced people throughout the United States to send millions of dollars to them to cover fees for lottery winnings.
     Shannon O'Connor, James Simpson and Mikael Gillette all signed plea agreements this week to conspiracy charges. They each face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.  Court documents show that O'Connor cashed three checks written by an 83-year-old Harvey, North Dakota, widow worth $65,000.
     One of the defendants in the case is prominent Jamaican disc jockey Deon-ville O'Hara, also known as ZJ Wah Wa. He has pleaded not guilty.


     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - White supremacist Craig Cobb is gone from Leith, but two of the three white power advocates to whom he gave property say they might build on their lots.  While Cobb was unsuccessfully trying to turn Leith into an Aryan enclave, he gave lots to white separatist Tom Metzger, neo-Nazi leader Jeff Schoep and white supremacist Alex Linder.
     Metzger says he's considering at some point building a monument to the white race, or perhaps erecting a sign imploring oil companies to not destroy the environment.  Schoep says he's considering putting up a building for National Socialist Movement members.
     Mayor Ryan Schock says it isn't a major concern for the city. He says officials have discussed possible ways to get the lots back but haven't yet approached Metzger, Schoep or Linder.


     FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A Minnesota man has pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide in the traffic deaths of two sisters in eastern North Dakota.  KFGO radio reports that 51-year-old James Yahnke, of Nielsville, Minnesota, is accused of being drunk and driving 94 mph on a rough section of a Traill County road north of Hillsboro in May and losing control of the car.
     Authorities say Yahnke and the two women were thrown from the vehicle. Twenty-three-year-old Mercedes Rowley, of Sharon, and 21-year-old Teja Beyer, of Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, died at the scene. Yahnke was hurt and flown to a Fargo hospital for treatment.


    GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) - The University of North Dakota says its police department now has a four-legged officer.  UND says "Officer Ben" is a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever that's trained to sniff drugs and track people.  The university says the dog and his handler, Officer Jose Solis, make up the school's first K-9 unit.

     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The man who has served as North Dakota's wildlife chief for two decades is planning to retire.  North Dakota Game and Fish Department Wildlife Division Chief Randy Kreil tells The Bismarck Tribune that he'll step down at the end of August.
     Kreil has been with the department for 29 years and has been the wildlife chief for the past 20. He's only 56 years old but says he and his wife made the decision years ago to retire early and spend time traveling and catching up with family and friends. His wife plans to retire from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service next June.
     Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand says Kreil's departure will leave a big hole to fill on both a professional and a personal level.


     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution commemorating the 125th year of North Dakota's statehood.  The resolution was introduced by Sen. John Hoeven and co-sponsored by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. It chronicles significant events in state history and congratulates the state's residents on driving North Dakota's successes.  North Dakota was granted statehood on Nov. 2, 1889. President Benjamin Harrison signed the admission papers, making North Dakota the 39th state.


   (Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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