Oklahoma has seen a significant decrease in injury traffic accidents involving drivers distracted by an electronic device since a law banning texting and driving went into effect last year.
Data from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office show that injury crashes involving a driver distracted by an electronic device fell from 538 to 422 in a nine-month period after the law went into effect on Nov. 1, 2015, compared with the same period a year earlier.
Total crashes in that category fell from 1,291 to 1,129, while fatal crashes dropped from 10 to 7 in the category, The Oklahoman reported.
AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai said the numbers show the law is working and that people are voluntarily putting down their phones.
“The causes of motor vehicle crashes are many and varied but it’s clear the Oklahomans are thinking twice before picking up their cellphone while driving,” Mai said. “Lives are being saved, injuries are being prevented and families are being saved the anguish of traffic collisions.”
Because other uses of a cellphone are allowed while driving, law enforcement has found it difficult to prove someone is texting and driving unless the driver admits it to an officer.
State Republican Sen. Ron Sharp is proposing a bill to ban talking on hand-held cellphones while driving, which the Legislature will consider in February. Oklahoma was the 46th state to ban drivers from texting, and Sharp’s proposed bill would make it the 15th state to ban drivers from hand-held cellphone use altogether.
“Your automobile is a weapon of mass destruction,” Sharp said. “It can cause major damage to you, your family and other individuals. We have to recognize that. We have to get a situation here where you are in command of your vehicle.”
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