Trooper Fatality Could Affect Anti-Texting Bill
State Rep. Mike Christian, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrolman, hopes to amend anti-texting legislation to recognize the two troopers, Nicholas Dees and Keith Burch, by renaming the bill in their honor, according to an article in The Oklahoman. Dees was killed at the scene and Burch was injured January 31, when they were hit while investigating a Seminole County tractor-trailer crash on Interstate 40.
Authorities charged Steven Wayne Clark, 29, with first-degree manslaughter in connection with the deadly wreck.
Christian, an Oklahoma City Republican, said he found out from Oklahoma Patrol Chief Rick Adams and Pontotoc County District Attorney Chris Ross, that Clark was allegedly updating his social media pages when he crashed.
The initial legislation, sponsored by Catoosa Republican Rep. Terry O’Donnell, would prohibit drivers from texting, sending or receiving e-mail, or using instant messaging. It is to be considered by the full House after receiving committee approval.
While the death of Trooper Dees is senseless and tragic, Cooper said, he hopes it will increase awareness about the dangers of technology and distracted driving. Christian delivered a copy of the amendment to the injured Burch at his hospital room.
Driving While ‘Intexticated’
Using a cellphone while driving, including texting or manipulating social media, is considered one of the most dangerous forms of distraction on the roadway because it takes the driver’s mind and eyes from the road and at least one hand off the wheel.
Some 1.3 million crashes in 2011, about 23 percent of all auto accidents, are believed to have involved cellphone use, according to textinganddrivingsafety.com.
A driver’s attention is diverted from the roadway for at least five seconds when texting. If you’re driving 55 mph, your vehicle can travel the length of a football field in that time, the website reports.
Using a cellphone increases the likelihood of a crash dramatically. Statistics show a crash is 23 times more likely while a driver is texting. The problem of texting at the wheel may be greatest among teenagers, with 13 percent of drivers 18 to 20 admitting to texting or talking on cellphones when they were involved in crashes.
More than 80 percent of teens ages 16 and 17 own cellphones and more than one in three of teen drivers admit to texting while driving. More than half say they’ve talked on the phone while driving.
But adults aren’t guilt-free in this national problem, either. More than one in four adults have sent or received text message while behind the wheel and nearly half of young drivers say they’ve seen their parents talk on the cellphone while driving.
Clearly, this deadly phenomena needs a solution. Even though drivers often engage in risky behaviors despite knowing the consequences of car crashes, the legislative efforts by Reps. Christian and O’Donnell could make a difference if they make people stop and think – just once – before pulling out their cellphones while driving.
Getting behind the wheel of a car is a serious responsibility; it isone that comes with life-or-death consequences. Oklahoma drivers may well need a state law to push them to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, instead of on the cellphone.
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