Advocacy Groups Want Stronger Texting Ban in Oklahoma

May 25, 2016

Just six months after Oklahoma’s ban on texting and driving went into effect, advocacy groups are calling for even broader measures to curb distracted driving.

Oklahoma was among the last states to pass a texting and driving moratorium when the Legislature passed a measure last year. Only two states – Arizona and Montana – lack such bans.

The Oklahoma prohibition went into effect Nov. 1. But The Oklahoman reported Sunday that law enforcement officers, national highway safety advocacy groups and even cellphone providers believe bans like Oklahoma’s are hard to understand, harder to patrol and don’t go far enough to keep the roads safe.

“Our hands are tied so much with the way the law is,” Edmond Police Department Lt. Acey Hopper said. “It’s difficult to enforce.”

Under Oklahoma’s law, operating a “motor vehicle on any street or highway while using a hand-held electronic communication device to manually compose, send or read an electronic text message while the vehicle is in motion” is illegal. The law also prohibits using instant messaging, photo, video and email on a device while behind the wheel.

Hopper said he’s noticed no change in driver behavior under the new law. A ban on the use of all hand-held devices would be more useful, he said.

National traffic safety organizations echo that sentiment.

“People are posting to social media. People are emailing. People are doing a lot of things on their phone besides texting,” said Kara Macek, a spokeswoman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. “Any time you’re interacting with your phone in your hand it takes your eyes away from the road.”

Macek said her organization is pushing for states to pass laws that explicitly ban all use of hand-held devices. Fourteen states have such bans, she said.

Oklahoma’s legislative action was prompted by the death of Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Nicholas Dees and injuries sustained by Trooper Keith Burch last year as a result of being hit by a driver uploading to social media from a smartphone.

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