House panel OKs texting while driving ban
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
2/20/13 at 8:32 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - A House committee approved legislation Tuesday to outlaw texting while driving.
House Bill 1503 - sponsored by Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville - would allow a fine of as much as $500 for people caught using a cellphone to write, send or read a text message, instant message or email while driving.
The proposal, which passed the House Transportation Committee on a 12-2 vote, includes exceptions for emergency response operators, medical officials, ambulance drivers, firefighters and law enforcement officials.
McDaniel said there is an "epidemic" of young drivers texting while driving.
Although state laws against driving while distracted already apply, he said some drivers will assume that if texting isn't specifically addressed in the law, it is OK.
In fact, some studies indicate that texting while driving can be six times more dangerous than drinking while driving, McDaniel said.
"It is not OK," he said.
Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh, said he sees the need but questions the proposal's enforceability.
"I cannot be convinced ... that this could ever be enforced," he said.
He also raised concerns about writing laws to address issues that really are issues of personal responsibility.
"Where do we draw the line of personal responsibility and freedom and security and freedom?" he asked.
Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, said the Legislature shouldn't hesitate to address the problem.
"If the Legislature were a football team, we'd have 80 punters here," he said. "We don't need to punt anymore."
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Edmond, said the bill is "half-baked" and doesn't do enough to change driver behavior.
He suggested more punitive measures if texting drivers were involved in collisions that caused damage to property.
Although he debated against the proposal, Turner ultimately voted for it.
Chuck Mai, vice president of public affairs for AAA Oklahoma, said his group endorses the proposal because its members have overwhelmingly spoken out on the need to address it.
AAA surveys have shown that 85 percent to 90 percent of respondents think the issue should be addressed in law, he said.
National studies have shown that 16,000 traffic deaths have been linked to texting while driving, Mai said.
In the gallery for Tuesday's debate was Tulsan Gina Harris, whose daughter was killed in an Oklahoma City crash while she was talking on a cellphone, and Dr. Nancy Inhofe of mygentxt.org.
A driver is as many as 23 times more likely to crash while texting, which delays a driver's reaction time as much as having a blood- alcohol concentration at the legal limit for intoxication, according to a handout from Inhofe's group.
With Tuesday's passage of the bill in the committee, it heads to the full House.
Original Print Headline: Texting-driving ban advances
Wayne Greene (918) 581-8308
Rep. Eric Proctor: "If the Legislature were a football team, we'd have 80 punters here. We don't need to punt anymore."