Oklahoma Senate Committee OKs Texting and Driving, School Zone Cell Phone Bills

February 21, 2014

The Oklahoma Senate Public Safety Committee has approved legislative measures that would ban texting while driving, as well as the use of cell phones while driving in school zones.

Senate Bill 442, by Sen. Ron Sharp, would make it unlawful to compose, send or read a text message while driving.

Senate Bill 1601 makes it illegal for anyone operating a motor vehicle to use a wireless communications device in a school zone. The bill does not apply to cars that are stopped, drivers who are using hands free devices or specifically-listed emergency calls.

Under SB 442, which was carried over from last session, anyone convicted of violating the law would be punished by a fine not to exceed $500, including court costs. The bill was amended in committee and the fine, including court costs, was lowered to no more than $30 for first offenses and $50 for second and subsequent offenses.

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.

Drivers who violate the provisions of SB 1601, the school zone cell phone bill, would face fines up to $250 per offense. However, if the violation results in an accident, the fine may be raised to not more than $500.

This bipartisan effort is based on similar laws in Arkansas and Texas.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office there were more than 11,000 crashes in 2012 caused by distracted drivers.

Both bills now move to the full Senate for further consideration.

Source: Oklahoma Senate