Oklahoma Bill Would Make Texting While Driving a Misdemeanor Offense

These days, it’s hard to get away from technology. If we aren’t walking around in public like zombies staring at our smartphone screens, we’re sitting at our desks staring at a monitor or sitting on the couch tapping away on a tablet. Even our automobiles have turned into rolling command centers with large touch screens, capacitive touch center consoles, and internet-connected apps.

When technology-creep starts invading the automobile, problems start to present themselves. Witness the large increases in distracted driving accidents in recent years, mainly from people texting on their phones instead of paying attention to the road ahead. So far, 44 states (plus D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have implemented a texting ban on cell phones for all drivers.

(Source: mymediadiary)

Oklahoma could become the forty-fifth state if State Senator Ron Sharp has his way. Sharp has introduced Senate Bill 67, which would ban all drivers from texting while driving. This is a step up from the current regulations, which only place a texting ban on drivers with a learner’s permit, intermediate license holders, school bus drivers, and public transit drivers.

But Senate Bill 67 goes even further than a simple texting ban; it would also prohibit drivers from emailing or even talking with a handheld cell phone. This means that drivers would need to use their vehicle’s built-in Bluetooth, an aftermarket hands-free kit, or use a Bluetooth earpiece/headset to make calls.

Currently, 13 states (in addition to D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) prohibit all handheld use of cell phones while driving.

The NHTSA has resorted to using graphic videos to discourage texting while driving.

“Using a cell phone to call or text while driving can be just as deadly as drunk driving,” said Sharp. “The danger is real. We see it every day, on city streets, highways and interstates. Senate Bill 67 is designed to make people think twice about pulling out their phone to answer a text or make a call while behind the wheel. The risk is just not worth jeopardizing lives.”

“Right now, the Legislature is sending a clear message to motorists that texting while driving is okay,” added Chuck Mai, VP of AAA Oklahoma.  “We need to encourage motorists to limit all distractions, especially texting.”

Violators would be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 or up to a year in jail (or both if you’re crime was especially egregious).

Both AAA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol point to a dramatic rise in distracted driving accidents in recent years (which mirrors the increasing proliferation of smartphones). In addition, distracted driving outpaces even drunk driving as the cause of injury and deaths on Oklahoma roads.