Ban on Texting While Driving May Decrease Accidents

The Oklahoma Legislature is considering a bill that would specifically prohibit drivers from texting while driving. Under the current law, Oklahoma prohibits distracted driving in general, but there is no law that specifically targets texting while driving.

According to a report in the Tulsa World, Oklahoma is one of only 11 states without some type of law that specifically prohibits texting while driving. Statistics cited in that report indicate that texting while driving increases the likelihood of an accident by more than 2,000 percent, compared to drinking and driving, which increases the accident rate by more than 400 percent.

Law enforcement charged with enforcing the law complain that while Oklahoma has a statute outlawing distracted driving, that law is a secondary offense, meaning that officers can only cite a driver for the offense if there is some other reason to stop them. The practical effect means that citations are generally written after-the-fact, which does little to reduce the behaviors that led to an accident caused by texting while driving. Under the proposed law, texting while driving would be a primary offense, permitting officers to stop and cite someone who they observed texting while driving.

Converting the offense of texting while driving to a primary offense has caused some to complain that it would be difficult to enforce, or even lead some drivers to continue the behavior while attempting to avoid detection, which is potentially more dangerous than texting while driving.

Proponents of the law, however, claim that just because a law may be difficult to enforce does not mean that legislators should simply abandon all attempts to make Oklahoma roads safer. Simply having a law in place will likely deter a substantial number of people from texting while driving in the first place, which is an important step in changing behaviors and reducing the number of accidents attributable to texting while driving.

The proposed law would carry a $500 fine.

If you have questions about car accidents caused by texting while driving, or distracted driving in general, contact the attorneys at Bryan & Terrill for more information, (918) 935-2777.