Okla. DOL Chief Says Cellphone Use Increases Teen Deaths

March 21, 2006

Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor Brenda Reneau praised state Sen. Clark Jolley and state Rep. John B. Nance for advancing S.B. 1542 to ban those with a learner’s permit from driving and talking on a cell phone unless they use a hands-free device. “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among Oklahoma teens,” Reneau said.

“It’s not picking on kids to base public policy on their driving performance. As a practical matter, it’s no different than charging young males higher insurance premiums based on their driving performance. As we reported two years ago, the crash rate per mile driven is three times as high among 16-year-olds as among 18-19-year-olds.”

While expressing her support for SB 1542, Reneau repeated her advocacy for proposals to put Oklahoma in line with federal child labor provisions: “To eliminate confusion, we simply need to make Oklahoma statutes harmonize with federal law which prevents 16- and 17-year-olds driving as part of their job.

“Current state statutes do not present a clear understanding of or reflection of federal requirements which obviously take precedence. If state law correctly reflected federal law, the state Labor Department could more efficiently examine instances of youth workers being required to drive in the course of employment – a practice contrary to both longstanding federal provisions and the intent of the state’s graduated driver’s license. As is already the case, children working on family farms would be exempt from such provisions.”

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