Texting, Sneezing and Distracted Driving

A local Tulsa teen was involved in a rollover accident Tuesday evening that resulted from texting-while-driving.  Although Oklahoma has not passed any law specifically addressing the issue of texting-while-driving, the State did pass a law in 2003 that prevents people from driving while distracted.

Title 47, Section 11-901b of the Oklahoma Statutes reads as follows:

The operator of every vehicle, while driving, shall devote their full time and attention to such driving.

No law enforcement officer shall issue a citation under this section unless the law enforcement officer observes that the operator of the vehicle is involved in an accident or observes the operator of the vehicle driving in such a manner that poses an articulable danger to other persons on the roadway that is not otherwise specified in statute.

The Legislature amended the statute in 2010 to include that last phrase, “or observes the operator of the vehicle driving in such a manner that poses an articulable danger to other persons on the roadway that is not otherwise specified in statute.”  The amended statute would arguably apply if an officer observed a person who was driving-while-texting, but only if the officer could articulate some observable danger caused by the texting-driver.  In other words, the statute does not contemplate texting-while-driving as a danger unto itself, which is quite the loophole if the amendment was passed in response to the dangers of texting-while-driving (which it most assuredly was).

Another interesting component of the statute is the broad sweep of conduct that could fall within its scope.  Any number of driver-related activities that are not deemed particularly dangerous could run afoul of this law, including: changing the radio station, turning on the heat or air, rolling down a window, sneezing, speaking to a passenger or even using a hands-free device or bluetooth to use the phone.

A lawyer handling any auto accident claim should perform a thorough investigation into the activities of the parties to determine if this particular statute might come into play.

More coverage here: Texting While Driving Causes Teen To Roll Car On Highway 75