OKLAHOMA CITY – Texting and driving is one step closer to becoming illegal in Oklahoma.
House Bill 1965, by state Rep. Terry O’Donnell, strengthens language aimed at preventing texting while driving. The measure, which received amendments in the state Senate requiring it to come back to the House, passed by a vote of 85-7. It now heads to the governor’s office for consideration and approval.
“I am grateful and honored of the overwhelming bipartisan support HB 1965 received on the House floor today,” said O’Donnell, R-Catoosa. “The ban on texting while driving is a long-term investment into the safety of those using our roads and highways. When our state passed drinking and driving laws and mandatory seatbelt laws, little changed overnight. But eventually the attitudes of driver’s changes and lives were saved.”
The state Senate added two amendments, reducing a $150 offense to $100 as well as making texting while driving a primary offense.
Rep. Mike Christian, a retired Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper, supported the legislation and said it was an important bill to support.
“The tragic accident that killed OHP trooper Nicholas Dees and seriously injured trooper Keith Burch in January was completely preventable,” said Christian, R-Oklahoma City. “It was a direct result of a driver so absorbed in his electronic media that he ran into both troopers at high speed while they were working the scene of another accident. Passing this is a fitting tribute to both troopers that this act bears their names.”
The passage of the bill was emotional for Christian, who knew the Dees family.
“If this measure keeps another trooper from having to tell another trooper’s family that they were killed by a driver who was texting, it will be worth it,” Christian said. “This disturbing trend of inattention behind the wheel must be curbed and I believe this bill will do that.”
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 44 states currently have a texting ban on drivers.
“This has been an issue we’ve studied in the legislature for some time,” O’Donnell said. “In an interim study last year, we learned that texting while driving makes the driver 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drinking and driving makes a driver six times more likely to be in an accident. When you compare those two stats, you have an idea of the danger texting while driving presents on our roads and highways.”
If signed into law by the governor, the texting while driving ban would go into effect Nov. 1.