Morgan’s legislation to ban texting while driving clears committee
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Published: 03-Mar-2011
CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published 03-Mar-2011

Under legislation approved by a House committee yesterday, beginner drivers could face hefty fines and possibly lose their driving privileges if caught texting while driving.

State Rep. Danny Morgan’s measure, House Bill 1316, will make it a criminal violation for all persons aged 18 and under to use a cell phone while driving (except emergencies), prohibits all drivers, regardless of age, from texting while driving, and prohibits all drivers from using a cell phone while driving in an area designated as school crossing zone.

All violations will be a primary offense.

“Collisions occur much too often for us to ignore the dangers of distracted driving”, said Morgan, a Prague Democrat. “My legislation builds on the work of legislators nationwide who have recognized the importance of banning texting while driving. I think it is critical that we get this law on the book and am pleased to see it pass its first legislative hurdle.”

The legislation would also ban drivers from using a cell phone while driving in an area designated as school crossing zone.

The measure advanced after a 9-7 vote in the House Public Safety Committee.

A total of 35 states now have similar legislation, up from 30 when Morgan began his push for action in this session.

Momentum for the change in policy has continued to build, despite evidence that incidents of “distracted driving” actually have increased after passage of similar measures in other states.

“No one wants to see a child injured or killed because a driver did not have the sense to put away his or her phone while driving through a school zone,” Morgan said.

Morgan said the data clearly indicates that driving while texting is as dangerous, if not more so, than driving under the influence of alcohol.

“This isn’t a problem we have dreamed up,” Morgan said. “There are real people whose lives are being affected, either through the loss of a loved one or a severe injury. As more and more people begin to text, things are only going to get worse.”

Currently twelve House members and two Senators from both parties have signed on in support as co-authors to the measure. Former Governor Brad Henry backed the measure, and it enjoys strong support from many of Oklahoma’s leading advocates of safe driving.

H.B. 1316 now proceeds to the House floor for consideration.

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

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