- Associated Press - Saturday, July 30, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs police officers on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation have been granted authority to fine non-tribal members for traffic offenses.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe granted BIA officers enforcement powers beginning Monday on the reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border, said Haden Merkel, traffic safety coordinator for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

In the past, when BIA officers pulled someone over for speeding on a state road crossing the reservation, the officer would need to call a county sheriff to issue a ticket, which was rarely done, Merkel said.

The 2.3 million-acre reservation comprises all of Sioux County, North Dakota and Corson County, South Dakota, plus parts of Dewey and Ziebach counties in South Dakota. About 8,000 tribal members live on the reservation. The tribe’s Prairie Knights Casino in Fort Yates, about an hour drive from Bismarck, is a popular draw for non-tribal members.

The Tribal Council also changed the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving from 0.10 to 0.08 to match state laws in the Dakotas, in an effort to reduce motor vehicle fatalities on the reservation, Merkel said.

Twenty-seven people have died due to drunken driving crashes on the reservation in the past 10 years, Merkel told the Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2apozR3 ).

The Tribal Council unanimously adopted the new rules in July, which brings the reservation in line with surrounding states’ laws. It was the first time in at least a decade the traffic laws had been revised by the Tribal Council.

“They really care that everybody is safe,” Merkel said.

Fines for speeding also were increased, and will start at $50, with $5 added for each mile the driver goes above the limit.

The new laws on the reservation also include a ban on talking or texting with a handheld device while driving. Outside of the reservation in North Dakota, texting is banned while driving, but talking on a handset is illegal only for juveniles.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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