Oklahoma Lawmaker Seeks Ban on Texting while Driving

by | Jan 15, 2014 | Car Accident, Distracted Driving

Oklahoma State Senator Susan Paddack has filed a bill to ban texting and driving in hopes of preventing car accidents throughout the state. Although Oklahoma already has distracted driving laws, Paddack wants to target drivers who text and drive specifically.

KFOR news in Oklahoma City interviewed Paddack about why she believes a ban on texting-and-driving is needed. She said distracted driving was a huge public safety issue. “Every day that I am on the road, I see drivers who are texting and not paying attention to their driving.”

Paddack has been trying to get a ban on texting while driving for five years and is hopeful that this time the measure will pass. All but nine states have laws addressing texting while driving.

The proposed law would allow police to give texting drivers $100 tickets. Even though officers are currently allowed to pull over distracted drivers, the added specificity of the texting ban might help reinforce law enforcement efforts and raise public awareness of just how dangerous texting and driving can be.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, 29 people died in distracted driving wrecks statewide in 2012. Current Oklahoma law prohibits texting and handheld cellphone use for drivers with learners permits or intermediate licenses. Also, federal law bans cellphone use for bus drivers and large truck operators.

Paddack’s bill would broaden the scope of Oklahoma distracted driving laws significantly to cover other drivers. Current state law actually prohibits local ordinances and regulations restricting cellphone use by drivers.

A statewide advocacy group called Drive Aware OK makes the following recommendations for preventing distracted driving injuries:

  • Stow cellphones while driving and if possible turn the phones off entirely. If you have to make a call or send a text, pull off the road and use the phone when the car is parked safely.
  • Passengers can help make calls or send text messages if it’s important to communicate on the road. Like a designated driver, a designated texter can help keep everyone in the car safe.
  • Make sure you have eaten and taken care of personal grooming before you get in the car. Do not try to eat a meal, apply make-up or do any other routine tasks while operating a motor vehicle.
  • Make sure that children are restrained in booster seats or child safety seats. If a child needs help, pull over and park before assisting the child.
  • Concentrate on safe driving. Use your mirrors, directional signals and the vehicle’s other safety equipment. Scan the roadway ahead and minimize distractions like loud music and personal electronics.
  • Make adjustments before starting the car. Make sure the seat is in the right place, the mirrors are visible, and the GPS is programmed before getting underway.
  • Do not drive while drowsy. If you experience sleepiness or fatigue while driving, pull over and rest instead of fighting to stay alert.

Texting-while-driving bans are popular in some states, but it is not clear if the Oklahoma proposal has political momentum. Although most states report a drop in traffic fatalities in the months following the implementation of a texting-and-driving ban, a recent study found that after a few months, the fatal crash rate returns to prior levels. Researchers believe that when texting laws first take effect, drivers are likely to obey them. But drivers eventually return to old habits when it becomes clear that not every texting driver will be pulled over and ticketed.