Oklahoma gets texting & driving ban

Gov. Mary Fallin signs texting bill into law

Gov. Mary Fallin, joined by family members of Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch, signs the texting & driving bill into law May 5.

Oklahoma’s state Legislature has approved a texting & driving ban that gives police powers of full enforcement. The governor signed the distracted driving act into law May 5.

The final vote of 85-7 came in the House on April 29. The House previously OK’d a ban with secondary enforcement, but went along with the Senate’s upgrade. That means police would be able to stop and cite offenders for texting alone.

The fine for all offenses would be $100. No points vs. the driver’s license. The law would go into effect Nov. 1, 2015.

Oklahoma remained one of the few remaining states without a ban on text messaging by all drivers.

The legislation was House Bill 1965 from state Rep. Terry O’Donnell.

It was subtitled “the Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act of 2015.” Dees was killed in late January in a roadway incident officials linked to a distracted driver; Burch was seriously injured. That honorific was added in the Senate. Members of their families were on hand for the vote and then for the bill signing.

The law prohibits municipalities from enacting ordinances that are more restrictive than the state law.

The texting & driving legislation encountered token personal-freedoms resistance, but passed anyway. “It’s a little bit of an overreach of Big Brother,” state Rep. Mike Ritze told the Criminal Justice Committee on Feb. 11.

Rep. Terry O'Donnell of OklahomaA last-minute rush of co-sponsors — all but 13 representatives signed up — meant the legislation enjoyed broad support and little opposition in its final days. O’Donnell, right, had told Hands Free Info early in the session that he was “optimistic that with my efforts to change some minds on the issue — along with the new legislators coming into this session — I can finally get legislation passed.”

Applause broke out in the House as final passage occurred April 29.

Gov. Fallin pushed for a distracted driving law in her February state of the state speech. “Over a dozen Oklahomans die every year in accidents caused by drivers who are distracted by cell phones,” Fallin said. “Hundreds more are injured. Studies show that driving while texting can actually be more dangerous than driving drunk.”

Her spokesman Alex Weintz told the AP after the passage: “We are pleased that the Legislature heard the governor and took up legislation that we think is potentially lifesaving.”

Read more about distracted driving laws in Oklahoma.

Comments

  1. Al Cinamon says:

    Well, look at that! Another State realizing distracted driving laws are a money making gravy train.
    1. Holding the phone is not a distraction. The conversation is. So why are they encouraging drivers to drive distracted? Because distracted driving leads to crashes and crashes lead to financial transactions that the State benefits from in the form of sales and income taxes.
    2. Banning texting while driving doesn’t stop drivers from texting. It merely forces them to put the device in their laps forcing them to take their eyes completely off the road. Why would the state encourage that? You guessed it. Distracted driving leads to crashes, etc. etc. etc.
    There is irony in the statement that the governor supports distracted driving laws. Only its not what you think it means. States are actually encouraging distracted driving. Only Herrsman of the NTSB had it right. Surprise, surprise, she’s gone!

    • Casey cozart says:

      As a biker and professional truck driver I completely support this. Personally, I think the fines are not high enough and should come with a mandatory 6 months of driver license suspension. Just yesterday, I almost collided with a man with both his hands on his phone driving down the highway. Think about it, I weighed 53,750lbs so it would not have been a pretty sight.

      Two years ago I was broad sided me on my motorcycle; he was updating his Facebook status and ran a stop sign. He had no insurance, drivers license suspended, and no tag. I had to foot the bill for the hospital and bike. I see it all day every day, distracted drivers are a great danger to the public. Your conversation and updates can wait, all I’m trying to do is provide for my family; sorry if that interferes with your twitter post.

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