Oklahoma: Cell phone laws, legislation

Last updated: October 9, 2014
Cell phone, text messaging news: Oklahoma remains one of the few remaining states without a ban on text messaging by all drivers. State Rep. Terry O’Donnell says he’ll file the 2015 plan to ban texting & driving. “Certainly, the issue of texting and driving is no stranger to this Capitol building,” O’Donnell told the Tulsa World. O’Donnell plans to limit his plan to secondary enforcement, as he did last year, meaning police would need an additional reason to stop and cite offenders.

state flag of Oklahoma for safety story A 2014 texting & driving ban from state Sen. Ron Sharp (with Rep. Jeannie McDaniel signed on as House sponsor) stalled and proved dead for the year. A frustrated Sharp pointed to families who were “burying their loved ones because someone couldn’t wait until they got home to send that last text.”

Sharp said he would return with expanded distracted driving legislation in 2015 that includes handheld cell phone use as well as more general distractions such as putting on makeup and eating.

A state law requires that drivers give full attention to the road, but citations are possible if an accident results or the inattention clearly results in reckless driving.

Current prohibitions:

  • Drivers required to “devote their full time and attention to such driving.” Fines $100.
  • Drivers with permits or graduated licenses (teens) face suspension or loss of license if they use a handheld electronic device to talk or to text while the car is in motion.

Cell phone, texting legislation (2014):
Senate Bill 442: Would prohibit text messaging while driving in Oklahoma. Fine up to $500. Approved by the Public Safety Committee in a 6-1 vote of Feb. 20. Rereferred to Public Safety and dead as of March 12. (Sharp in Senate/McDaniel, J. in House)

SB 1601: Would prohibit use of handheld wireless communications devices while driving in a school zone. Fine $250; up to $500 if accident results. Approved by the Public Safety Committee in a 7-0 vote of Feb. 20. Approved unanimously by the Senate on March 13. Died in the House. (Bingman, McNiel)

SB 1189: Would outlaw text messaging while driving. Fine: minimum $100. Appears to permit use of hands-free texting systems. Never advanced. (Paddack)

House Bill 2540 Seeks to prohibit typing into a wireless communications device — “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters.” Fine: $500. Secondary enforcement. Approved by the Public Safety Committee in an 8-4 vote of Feb. 26. Amended to add $1,000 fine for serial offenders March 6. “Laid over.” (O’Donnell)

HB 1097: Would ban texting while driving. Fine up to $500. Never advanced. (Shoemake)

Distracted driving notes (2014):
After no distracted driving legislation succeeded in 2014, AAA of Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai told the Tulsa World: “It’s remarkable that a few key legislators could thwart the will of other legislators and the will of the people.”

A plan to prohibit cell phone use while driving through Oklahoma school zones made it through the Senate in 2014 before dying in the House. Fine of $250; more if an accident results. Observers hoped it could be amended into a full ban on texting, which was the last hope for such a law in Oklahoma this session.

In the House, a plan to outlaw typing while operating a moving vehicle went before the full House. It’s from Rep. Terry O’Donnell. “We’re not going to be pulling drivers over on suspicion of texting,” O’Donnell said of its secondary enforcement limitation. It was approved in committee Feb. 26 but then “laid over.” “We know we will save lives with this measure,” O’Donnell said — but he waylaid his own bill because there was “no sense wasting time if it isn’t popular (with lawmakers)”

State Sen. Susan Paddack filed legislation for 2014 that would outlaw texting by all drivers in Oklahoma. The fine would be at least $100. “It is a huge public safety issue,” Paddack says. “Every day that I am on the road, I see drivers who are texting and not paying attention to their driving.”

State Rep. Mike Ritze said the 2014 texting & driving legislation resembles a product of “a Nazi state,” the AP reported in February.

State Sen. Ron Sharp also says the legislative leadership just doesn’t doesn’t want to hear about texting bills: “The public doesn’t realize how many (of us) are pushing it but we just can’t seem to get it heard (in committee).”

Republican Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon stepped down in preparation for a Senate race, possibly opening the door for an electronic distracted driving law.

2013 cell phone, texting legislation:
House Bill 1503: Would outlaw text messaging while driving in Oklahoma. Fine: $500 (including costs). OK’d by the Transportation Committee in a 12-2 vote Feb. 5. Latest legislative action: Tabled by the Calendar Committee on Feb. 28. (McDaniel, Curtis; Senate: Ellis)

HB 1055: Appears identical to HB 1503, above. (McDaniel, Jeannie)

HB 1097: Same as HB 1503, above. (Shoemake)

Senate Bill 400: Would outlaw texting and driving. Fine: At least $100. (Paddack)

2013 distracted driving notes :
State Rep. Curtis McDaniel and his allies’ bids to ban texting & driving in Oklahoma were thwarted multiple times in 2013. McDaniel’s 2013 bill to prohibit texting & driving advanced in the House, but was then derailed by the Republican-controlled Calendar Committee. The measure, House Bill 1503, sought a maximum penalty of $500. McDaniel says “90 percent” of the public support a texting ban.

McDaniel also tried to ban texting via an earlier amendment. He told the AP that resistance to his efforts to enact distracted driving sanctions was “aggravating.” “It’s going to take a major catastrophe in the lives of those people (Republicans) holding it up for something to happen,” McDaniel said.

State Rep. Cory Williams says Oklahoma’s driver inattention law “is reactive not proactive. I personally want the law to keep up with the pace of technology.”

House Minority Leader Scott Inman said Democrats “tried to make it safer for people on the road” with multiple attempts to pass distracting driving laws. “We tried, and the majority defeated us every time,” Inman, D-Del City, told the Oklahoman on April 24. “That’s how the process works.”

State Rep. Curtis McDaniel cited bipartisan support for his HB 1503 in the Legislature, but it was stalled by the House calendar committee, controlled by Republicans. McDaniel says lawmakers are increasingly in favor of a ban, echoing comments by former state Rep. Danny Morgan, an advocate for distracted driving laws who left the House after last term.

“Many drivers dislike new restrictions, but changes in technology have created a texting culture which has decreased road safety,” McDaniel said in January 2013. “We have to address it.”

Dave Koeneke, executive director of Oklahoma Safety Council, said the fight will go on until a texting & driving ban is enacted in Oklahoma. “We’ll pursue it every year if it doesn’t make it,” he told the Oklahoman in mid-March.

2012 cell phone, texting legislation (dead):
Senate Bill 182: Would bar drivers under the age of 18 with learners’ permits and restricted licenses from using handheld electronic devices. Hands-free OK. Defeated in the Senate in a 22-20 vote taken March 14 (25 needed to pass). (Crain)

House Bill 2898: Would prohibit state of Oklahoma employees from text messaging while driving state-owned vehicles and/or while driving a private vehicle on state business. Includes elected officials. (Morgan)

2012 distracted driving notes:
Twenty-nine people were killed in Oklahoma in 2012 due to distracted driving.

A Senate plan to ban handheld electronic device use by teen drivers with restricted licenses fell three votes short of approval in 2012.

Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, says his SB 182 was filed in part due to a request from the state Department of Health. it cleared the the Senate Public Safety Committee but couldn’t muster the 25 ayes needed for passage in the full Senate. Bill foe Sen. Steve Russell said parents should make the decisions about what their children do.

AAA correctly predicted that texting & driving legislation would fail in 2011 due to “a handful of lawmakers (who) were able to thwart legislation that 87 percent of AAA members say they want.”

Oklahoma’s inattentive driving law went into effect Nov. 1, 2010. Does not specify use of handheld cell phones or text messaging devices, but allows for penalties if their use causes an accident or leads to reckless/careless driving.

2011 distracted driving notes:
AAA correctly predicted that texting & driving legislation would fail in 2011 due to “a handful of lawmakers (who) were able to thwart legislation that 87 percent of AAA members say they want.”

Oklahoma’s inattentive driving law went into effect Nov. 1, 2010. Does not specify use of handheld cell phones or text messaging devices, but allows for penalties if their use causes an accident or leads to reckless/careless driving.

Tulsa has given its police authority to cite drivers for various distracted driving activities, with the focus on people texting while behind the wheel. Cell phone use is not affected unless the driver is inattentive. Fine of $150. The amendment, which took effect Dec. 3, brings the city code in line with the state’s inattentive driving law.

House Bill 1316 sponsor Rep. Danny Morgan saw his texting bill defeated on March 17 and then directed his efforts in support of SB 146, which he was shepherding in the House. He sought to add some of the language from HB 1316 to SB 146, which was approved by the Senate on March 16 and transferred to the House but left in the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, created that bill.

Morgan, D-Prague, previously said he was feeling good about his legislation that would ban text messaging for all Oklahoma drivers. “There is a growing coalition of support for this legislation and I believe that we will see it pass this session,” he said at a Jan. 19 press conference detailing the distracted driving bill.

“Texting while driving is not a practice committed only by young drivers, it’s becoming a common occurrence by drivers of all ages, and needs to be nipped in the bud,” said Morgan. Supporters of Morgan’s plan include AAA Oklahoma, Farmers Insurance, the Oklahoma Safety Council, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, AT&T and SAFE KIDS Oklahoma State. Morgan’s bill also would ban use of cell phones by drivers under 18.

HB 1316 co-sponsor Rep. Paul Roan brings 30 years of law enforcement experience to the table: “You have different degrees of law and this will be a primary cause law,” said Roan, D-Tishomingo. “If a policeman sees you texting, that in itself is a violation. Now it is a secondary charge.”

2011 cell phone, texting legislation (dead):
House Bill 1316: Would outlaw texting and driving. Fine: $25. Drivers under 18 also prohibited from using cell phones and other wireless communications devices. Primary enforcement. Fines: $100-$500 (first violation), $100-$1,000 (second) and $100-$2,000 (all subsequent). For all repeat violations, possible community service time. For three or more violations, possible license suspension. All drivers would be barred from using a mobile phone or other electronic communication device in school zones. Fine: up to $100. Approved by the House Public Safety Committee in a 9-7 vote on March 2. Latest action: Rejected by the House in a 47-40 vote taken March 17. (Morgan)

HB 1340: Sought to outlaw use of handheld wireless devices while driving. Fines up to $500. (Renegar)

HB 1633: Would have outlawed use of handheld electronic communications devices while driving in a school zone. (Brown)

SB 146: Would prohibit text messaging by all drivers in Oklahoma. Secondary enforcement. Fines: $175 (first offense) and then $500. Fine doubled if accident results. Approved by the Senate in a 32-9 vote on March 16 but left in House Judiciary Committee. (Ellis)

2010 legislation notes:
Gov. Brad Henry banned all state employees from text messaging while operating government vehicles. At a Capitol ceremony on Jan. 19, 2010, he urged the Oklahoma Legislature to take action on distracted driving, calling texting and driving “a recipe for absolute disaster.”

With HB 3250, Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, reintroduced her 2009 plan to ban text messaging while behind the wheel, adding use of handheld cell phones.

Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City, said he plans to introduce a bill that would require schools to teach young drivers about the dangers of text messaging behind the wheel.

2010 cell phone, texting legislation:
HB 2276: Requires drivers to devote their full attention to driving. Citations of drivers using cell phones or texting must follow an accident or incident of reckless driving. Fines $100 plus court costs up to $35. House passed the bill March 3 and the Senate followed a month later. Approved by governor April 14. Latest action: Took effect Nov. 1. (Duncan, Anderson)

SB 1908: Prohibits teenage drivers (with permits or graduated licenses) from using a handheld electronic device to talk or text when the car is in motion. (Originally an electronic distracted driving bill that applied to adults as well but changed in committee.) Revocation of of learner’s permits and Intermediate Class D licenses could result after violations. Final approval of bill in the House and Senate in late May. Signed into law by the governor on June 6. Latest action: Took effect Nov. 1. See update, above. (Tibbs, Morgan, Sykes)

HB 3250: Would ban the use of handheld cell phones and text messaging devices while driving in Oklahoma. Cell phone users must employ hands-free accessories. Exempts GPS and navigation devices. Penalties up to $1,000 (fine and court costs). Approved by the House Public Safety Commitee on Feb. 24. Approved by the full House on March 10. Sent to the Senate. (Tibbs, Morgan)

HB 2611: Would prohibit text messaging by all drivers. Secondary enforcement. Fine of $250 plus two points/$500 three points. (Liebmann)

HB 2857: Would outlaw text messaging and use of cell phones by drivers of public transit vehicles, including school buses. Also railway vehicles. $500 fine. (Wright)

SB 1355: Would prohibit drivers 18 years old and younger from text messaging while behind the wheel. Secondary enforcement, meaning traffic officers cannot stop violators for this reason alone. Fines of up to $100 and $250 (subsequent violations). (Paddack)

SB 1843: Would prohibit text messaging by all authors. Fines up to $175/$500 (for subsequent violations). Fines double after accidents. (Easley)

SB 1386: Would ban text messaging by all drivers. Secondary enforcement. Fines of up to $175 and $200 (for subsequent violations) (Garrison)

SB 1906: Would outlaw use of “portable electronic devices” while driving, including cell phones and text messaging devices. Fine up to $150. (Johnson)

Note: All legislation can be accessed via the Oklahoma Legislature bill tracker.

2009 legislation:
HB 1782: Would have prohibited the use of cell phones by drivers unless a hands-free device was employed. OK’d in committee, sent to the House floor but never heard in the 2009 session.

HB 1526: Would outlaw text messaging while driving, but citations would not be issued unless an accident has occurred.

2009 legislation notes:
Rep. Sue Tibbs said of her stalled hands-free legislation: “(HB 1782) was heard in committee. It did pass committee, then assigned to the floor. This bill did not get heard. I didn’t get an explanation why it wasn’t given a hearing.”

She says of texting while driving: “Young people just think they’re invincible. … I just don’t think people realize how dangerous that is.” The bill called for text messaging while driving fines starting at $200 and capping out at $500.

HB 1526 includes possible jail time of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000. The sponsor is Rep. Guy Liebmann, R-Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City’s Metro Transit has a new policy for bus drivers: Text and be fired immediately. The first use of a cell phone brings a suspension, the second results in termination.

Previous legislation:
HB 2964, from Rep. Danny Morgan (2008), would have banned cell phoning and texting by teenage drivers.

HB 2932 (2008): Would have prohibited school bus drivers from using cell phones.

SB 176 and HB 2213 (identical, 2008): Would have prohibited use of cell phones without hands-free devices.

HB 2597 (2008): Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, sponsored the “Brittanie Montgomery Act,” named for a cheerleader who died while driving and texting.

“If you’re 15 and a half years old, you’re just learning how to drive, that ought to take 100 percent of your energy and attention,” says text messaging bill sponsor Rep. Paul Wesselhoft. “A 15-year-old learning how to drive has no business being on a cell phone.”

Comments

  1. Joe Law says:

    Making this law secondary enforcement, is like no law at all.

  2. I ride a motorcycle. I live in Idabel, Oklahoma and several time have almost been hit by someone distracted because of they’re using a cell phone while texting or talking. Idabel is a town with a population around 9,000. The number of people that can be seen on any given day talking or texting on their cell phones is unbelievable. I hope I or anyone else don’t becomes another statistic before a law is enforced.

  3. I hope they pass a law for no hand held cell phone use. It’s just dangerous. A friends’ daughter was hit twice by people who were on the cell phone. This current law will be ineffective.

  4. I really think that while you are driving a car you should not be talking on a phone unless you use a bluetooth device. Taking your hands from the wheel to pick up and talk on a phone distracts you from what you task is which is to drive your car. We have way too many people using phones to talk or text while driving and not paying attention to driving their vehicles.

    I think that they need to make the law stiff to those who use cell phones while driving. In the matter of truck drivers I really believe that they should be able to use the phone while driving and should they get in a accident and it is proven that the use of a cell phone by the truck driver was the cause then fines should be stiff and points against their license.

    Truck drivers are saftey consenious and they watch everything its the 4-wheelers that don’t pay attention and think that an 18-wheeler can stop on a dime and they take a lot of chances with big trucks, my husband is a truck driver and I have gone on the road with him on occasion and the cars take a lot of chances and they are the ones that cause most accidents that truck drivers get into.

    So let’s make it a severe penalty for drivers of car talking or texting on the phone and make it so that repeat offenders lose their license should they get three cell phone related tickets.

  5. BillyRay says:

    I am 100% in full support of any law that will prohibit the use of a cell phone while driving. They have to many devices out there that are available to use that are connected to cells that make you hands free and able to pay attention to the road.

    I am a truck driver myself and in a family of truck drivers. I refuse to use my cell unless I have my Bluetooth headpiece on and even then I am very picky about how long I talk on it. I can say from experience that distracted driving due to use of cell can and will kill. I lost a son to it

  6. Oh good god, i can’t believe all these comments. I thought people would be commenting about how silly this is. Okay some people get in accidents because of using their phone, so they should be banned? People are the problem here and I don’t want my right to use my phone in my car to be taken away just because some people are stupid. I text and drive and use my GPS and operate the music player and phone calling sometimes on my phone while driving. I have never once in my life caused a wreck. I would hate to be in fear next time I want to do these things and be afraid of some police officer pulling me over, giving me a ticket, and trying to intimidate me and the whole bit when I am perfectly safe.

  7. Al Cinamon says:

    Aaron, here is something for you to ponder. Every driver who was ever in a crash or died in a crash felt the same way you feel, just moments before the crash. They all felt they were safe and in control…and then in the next second they were dead or inured.

    I’m sure you’ve heard all the excuses. “I didn’t see him.” “I don’t know where he came from.” “He came out of nowhere.” Well. let me tell you, he didn’t come out of “nowhere.” He came out of “somewhere” the driver wasn’t looking.because he was busy doing something other than paying FULL attention to driving.

    You need to rethink your position. With your distracted driving (and don’t kid yourself, you are driving distracted) you are placing yourself and everyone else on the road with you in danger. Think about it.before something bad happens.

  8. I want cell phone use while driving banned in Oklahoma, not hidden in an unenforceable distracted driving law. If I were not a very experienced, very defensive driver, I would be involved in an accident every day, caused by someone on their cell phone. I know this because at least once and usually several times a day, I have to swerve to avoid a head on by someone who crosses the center line, I have to slam on my brakes because someone cuts me off or I have to yield to someone who has no idea they just ran a stop sign or a red iight, and all of them are on their cell phone. People who are talking on their phone are NOT paying attention to traffic or traffic signals. They are injuring and killing people and driving up insurance costs. They are no less dangerous than those who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  9. Tulsa Attorney says:

    I think an enforced ban on texting and driving is necessary to bring the dangers of this activity to more people’s attention. The data coming out this year has been quite shocking. I have to say though that, until all devices are speech recognition driven, it isn’t only cell phones that are the trigger for these accidents. GPS systems and car stereos aren’t completely innocent of contributing to drivers not paying attention. The problems may rise in whether or not an officers judgement was clear in determining just exactly what a driver was doing, even if they were moving their phone from their pocket to the their dashboard, one could easily be fined for not texting.

  10. I believe we should enforce the no texting or talking lwhile driving law to save lifes. It’s nonsense that a police has to see that a person is being a danger to other drivers while texting because sometimes it may be too late to stop them. I would say enforce the law now instead of waiting for something to happen and have another victim killed by a distracted driver.

  11. Patricia Holloway says:

    I want to be an advocate for ending text/telephone/distracted driving! Oct. ’09 I was hit head on by a plumbing truck doing office work from his cab. He crossed a median and into my lane. In a few seconds he ruined many lives. Mine especially. I’m still having surgeries. I have lots of pictures and scars that would scare someone into believing that the brain can’t always keep up with several things at once. I can have no closure until I can help. There is nothing left in my life but this wreck!!!

  12. Duane Bunch says:

    17 years ago today, I buried my 18 year old son. A 45 year old lady was talking on her cell phone, drifted into his lane and caused him to loose control. He crossed over into on-coming traffic on I-35, just north of Norman, OK. He was in his second semester of college and was already on the Dean’s Honor Roll. It still seems like it was yesterday!

    I have family, friends, and aquaintances either seriously injured or killed because of cell phone use during the past 17 years. It is time for Oklahomans to step up and stop this. I am very dissappointed to hear this legislation has stalled.

  13. Vicki Day says:

    Are we in competition with other states on who can come up with the most stupid and incompetent laws! Geez we may win!

  14. ok, then i want the mobile data terminals taken out of police cars. they are laptop sized computers with full screens and keyboards which are used to communicate with other officers and dispatch stations. these terminals have also caused accidents while officers have been moving on the roadway and using the terminals to either communicate or receive communications.

    it is a scientific fact that younger people are able to effectively multi task with technology more than the older generations who are pushing for these bills.
    and before anyone starts in, i was a police officer who did use the mobile data terminals. we dont need more laws to regulate us, use the ones we have effectively and srop being a bunch of sheep.

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