Oklahoma drivers may soon face fines if caught texting and driving.
Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, unveiled a new house bill last month that will ban cell phone use while driving, specifically texting and driving. If caught texting and driving, drivers can face fines from $100 to $2000, possible suspension of their license and possible community service.
Currently 30 states, Washington D.C. and Guam, all have some sort of text message law in effect.
If passed, House Bill 1316 will prohibit all drivers under the age of 18 from using cell phones, except for emergencies, prohibit all drivers, regardless of age, from sending, composing or receiving text messages, and prohibit the use of cell phones in school zones and construction zones.
Morgan said that driving is a responsibility and that drivers have to focus on the road for their lives and the lives of the drivers around them.
“I don’t know if there is anyone out there that can say that texting and driving isn’t a very dangerous situation,” Morgan said. “It’s more dangerous than anything else we do. I’ve had some criticism that say, ‘well you’ve got people drinking their coffee and eating Danish rolls and putting on make-up,’ I understand that and they can still be stopped for distractive driving if the law enforcement officer chooses to do that, but that still is not nearly as dangerous as texting and driving.
“All the information we have seen is that the most dangerous thing to do behind an automobile, is to text. I’m hoping that we are going to be able to give law enforcement officers to stop someone if they’re caught texting before an accident occurs, in other words I want to be proactive with our legislation and not reactive.”
Jenifer Frazier, a Sapulpa resident, agrees with Morgan that House Bill 1316 is needed.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Frazier said. “Especially because new drivers don’t know what they are doing anyway. They should have some kind of restrictions pertaining to their phones.”
However, Tulsa resident Ryan Wheeler said he thinks the law is unfair and that drivers shouldn’t be banned from using their cell phones while driving.
I don’t like it,” Wheeler said. “Seriously, there’s plenty of people that don’t know how to drive period, so why restrict their cell phone? If you are distracted by your cell phone, what’s next, are we not going to be allowed to eat or drink or listen to the radio? There’s plenty of things that can distract you besides your cell phone.”
Morgan said a lot people are endorsing House Bill 1316. He said 13 of 101 members of the legislature are coauthors of the bill and wanted to show their support by being coauthors. AAA, the Oklahoma and Tulsa county Health Departments, the Oklahoma Department of Health, OG&E and AT&T are some of the organizations that are supporting the house bill.
Morgan said voting on the house bill would be in the next couple of weeks and if passed, would become effective Nov. 1.