A new law, which passed in May 2015 and went into effect Nov. 1 is geared toward making the state’s roadways safer and saving lives.
House Bill 1965 makes texting while driving a primary offense. Oklahoma has had a distracted driving law in place for a number of years, which made texting while driving a secondary offense. This means a driver could be cited for texting and driving only when stopped for another traffic violation. Under this new law, drivers can be pulled over and given a $100 ticket when observed texting and driving, even if no other traffic laws were violated. Oklahoma is the 46th state to enact a ban on texting while operating a motor vehicle.
HB 1965 was named for Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers Nicholas Dees and Keith Burch, who were struck by a driver who was texting in January 2015. Dees was killed in the accident, and Burch suffered serious injuries.
While the new law applies to every driver of a motor vehicle, novice drivers in Oklahoma — including drivers with permits or graduated licenses —risk suspension or loss of license if they text or use a handheld cell phone.
Using a cell phone in any manner while driving is a safety hazard. There are three types of distraction while driving when using a cell phone. The first distraction is visual. The driver actually takes his eyes off the road for several seconds. Second is manual distraction, which involves the driver taking his or her hands off the wheel. And lastly, cognitive distraction takes the driver’s mind off driving. And this all happens while covering as much distance as two or three football fields. The consequences of distracted driving can last a lifetime. No text message is worth that cost.
In 2013 alone, drivers distracted by electronic devices in Oklahoma were involved in 14 fatal crashes and 602 injury crashes.
Technology is a wonderful way to stay in touch. When traveling down the road, keep your focus on the road. Let the phone ring, chime or buzz. Once you reach your destination, then is the time to return that call or text message.