The Norman Transcript

Opinion

February 22, 2014

No texting & driving

NORMAN — The full Oklahoma Senate will soon take up Senate Bill 442, which bans writing, sending or reading a text while driving. It’s time Oklahoma joined 42 other states in regulating texting while driving.

The AAA estimates there were more than 11,000 crashes in 2012 caused by distracted drivers. The automobile insurance and travel company has been pushing for the legislation for the past five years.

Studies show texting while driving is nearly as dangerous as drinking alcohol and driving. Your hands are off the wheel, your eyes are off the road and your concentration is elsewhere. At intersections, drivers are often stopped looking at their phones rather than observing the normal flow of passage.

“We’ve outlawed drinking and driving — now it’s time we put a stop to this dangerous behavior as well before more lives are senselessly lost,” said Senate author Ron Sharp, a Shawnee Republican.

Under SB 442, which was carried over from last session, anyone convicted of violating the law would be punished by a fine not to exceed $500, including court costs. The bill was amended in committee and the fine, including court costs, was lowered to no more than $30 for first offenses and $50 for second and subsequent offenses.  

The bill provides exemptions for law enforcement and safety personnel; drivers of authorized emergency vehicles; someone operating an amateur radio or who holds a current, valid amateur radio station license issued by the FCC; or those who use a cell phone solely to contact an emergency response operator, a hospital, physician’s office, health clinic, a provider of ambulance or firefighting services, or a law enforcement agency in emergency situations.

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