The full Oklahoma Senate approved legislation barring cell phone use in Oklahoma school zones, but a bill that would ban texting while driving suffered a setback as it was sent back to committee.
The positive vote on Senate Bill 1601, which makes it illegal for anyone operating a motor vehicle to use a wireless communications device in a school zone, was unanimous.
The measure, which was co-authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, would not apply to cars that are stopped, drivers using hands-free devices, or emergency calls as outlined in the bill.
Drivers face fines up to $250 per offense if they violate the provisions of the law. However, if the violation results in an accident, the fine may be raised to not more than $500.
SB 1601 is based on similar laws in Arkansas and Texas. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
SB 442, the texting while driving bill, was referred back to the Senate Public Safety Committee, where the measure’s author expects it will die.
Sen. Ron Sharp expressed disappointment in the Senate’s lack of consideration for the bill.
“When people text and drive they’re playing Russian roulette not only with their own lives but with those of everyone else on the road. These crashes result in drivers spending thousands of dollars on vehicle repairs as well as in car and health insurance costs, while the others are burying their loved ones because someone couldn’t wait until they got home to send that last text,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee.
If SB 442 were to pass, Oklahoma would join 42 other states that have outlawed texting while driving, Sharp said.
Under SB 442, which was requested by AAA, first offenses would result in a fine, including court costs, of up to $30 while second and subsequent offenses would result in a fine of up to $50.
The bill provides exemptions for law enforcement and safety personnel; drivers of authorized emergency vehicles; someone operating an amateur radio or who holds a current, valid amateur radio station license issued by the FCC; or those who use a cell phone solely to contact an emergency response operator, a hospital, physician’s office, health clinic, a provider of ambulance or firefighting services, or a law enforcement agency in emergency situations.
Source: Oklahoma Senate