Senate panel approves ban on texting while driving
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Published: 17-Feb-2011
CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published 17-Feb-2011

The Senate Public Safety Committee has given approval to legislation to ban texting while driving.  State Sen. Jerry Ellis is the author of Senate Bill 146 which was approved by the committee on Thursday (February 17).

State Rep. Danny Morgan, a Prague Democrat, is a leading advocate of the idea in the state House. He has built a strong coalition of support, although there is debate about the effectiveness of such bans. There is even some evidence – which Morgan and other advocates dispute – of “unintended consequences.” Some data indicates bans actually trigger behavior that leads to increases in distracted driving.

“Many people I’ve talked to have seen a near miss or accident that involved someone not paying attention to the road because they were texting while driving,” said Ellis, a Valliant Democrat.  “Just since filing this bill I’ve heard from people who’ve been involved in wrecks because of texting and driving.”

Numerous reports have outlined the dangers of texting while driving. A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found texting while driving makes a person 23 times more likely to be in a collision.  The University of Utah conducted research that found people who were texting were just as impaired as drunk drivers.

“This behavior puts everyone on the road at risk.  A ban on texting while driving could help save lives,” Ellis said.

Under the legislation, first-time offenders would face a fine of up to $175.  Subsequent violations could result in a fine of up to $500.  If the driver is involved in a crash at the time of violation, the fine would be double those amounts.

Ellis said the ban would apply to all drivers, regardless of age, with exceptions for emergency and medical personnel or law enforcement.  There is an exception for drivers who are using a wireless telecommunication to report illegal activity, summon emergency help or to prevent injury to a person or property.

S.B. 146 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report. 

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