Oklahoma lawmakers are seeking legislation to ban texting and driving.
The case to ban the use of mobile phones while operating vehicles has been long debated, but came to a head last month after a phone-related incident cost two highway patrol officers their lives.
On Jan. 1, 2015, Steven Clark was driving down I-40 and failed to notice the cordoned-off roadway ahead. Officers Nicholas Dees and Keith Burch were responding to a jackknifed truck on the road ahead. Clark swept through the crash site, striking both officers with his car. Dees was killed immediately, while Burch received serious injuries. After an investigation, it was determined that Clark had been updating his social media while driving, and did not see signs posted about the blocked-off road, or the officers themselves.
State Representative Terry O’Donnell wrote House Bill 1965 in response to this crash, and similar accidents caused by texting while driving. The bill states that a first offense of texting or updating social media while driving would incur a fine of $250. Subsequent offenses would gain a $500 fine. Voice communications are still allowed under the bill, but anything involving texting on the phone is banned.
The law follows a string of texting bans across the country, O’Donnell stated in a recent Oklahoma State Legislature press release.
“In last fall’s interim study, we learned that all but six states have laws directly banning texting while driving; that texting while driving makes the driver 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident; and 11 people die each day in the United States as a result of texting while driving,” O’Donnell said. “It’s time for Oklahoma’s motor vehicle laws to come into the 21st century.”
Legislation for the bill cleared a legislative committee on Wednesday, Feb. 11. The bill will now go to the full House. A similar bill was proposed last year, and failed earlier in the legislative process.
While everyone can agree that it’s important to try save lives on the road, some don’t believe legislation will have any effect on the issue. An NPR discussion in January of 2014 discussed the fact that while texting and driving laws have become the norm, they don’t always seem to effectively inhibit the issue. A study by Professor of Scott Adams of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee revealed that while many drivers stop texting during the first few months of a new ban, the ban wore out over time.
“In other words, people stop texting and driving for a little while and then they start doing it again pretty quickly,” said author Alisa Roth. “[Professor] Adams thinks part of it is that it doesn’t really matter much if you get caught. In some states, the police can’t even pull you over unless you’re doing something else wrong, like not using your turn signal. Or the penalties are just too low.”
It is unclear at this time if the texting and driving bill will have any affect on Oklahoma drivers, or if the bill will become a law at all. But the bill does succeed in bringing to light a tense issue in today’s world: texting and driving isn’t a mindless pastime. Even a glance at Facebook while driving can kill
What do you think? Should House Bill 1965 become law? Will it have any affect?