Legislation proposed by an Oklahoma state representative would prohibit school bus drivers from talking on their cell phone while driving the bus.
The measure by Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, would also forbid teenagers with learner’s permits from using a cell phone in their vehicles.
Wesselhoft added the bus driver provision to legislation he already planned to file that increases the penalty for drivers who have accidents while talking or texting on cell phones.
“People need to stop using cell phones and keep both hands on the wheel when driving, especially those who are carrying such precious cargo, our children,” Wesselhoft said.
The legislation will be named after Brittanie Montgomery, a New Orleans Hornets Honeybee cheerleader who died in December while texting on her cell phone.
“I wish no one would talk or text on cell phones and drive – they need to pay attention to the road. However, Wesselhoft’s bill is the next best thing and I fully endorse it,” said Gina Harris, Montgomery’s mother.
The bill makes the penalty for having an accident caused by cell phone use a mandatory $1,000 fine and 20 days in jail in addition to any other penalties for other crimes associated with the accident.
Bus drivers will face a mandatory $1,000 fine in the proposed law for using a cell phone while operating a bus.
Those with learner’s permit will face a mandatory $500 fine if caught using a cell phone while driving.
A quarter of all car crashes in Oklahoma in 2006 occurred when a driver was talking on a cell phone, according to statistics from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.
The 802 accidents that occurred while a cell phone was in use represent a 241 percent increase over just five years ago.
According to a study released by the National Highway Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes nationwide are caused by driver inattention, including cell phone use, which is the most common distraction.
Several states have banned cell phones while driving, especially targeting bus drivers. The only law on the books in Oklahoma forbids local governments from regulating cell phone use while driving, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Information from: The Oklahoman, www.newsok.com
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