Oklahoma's texting and driving law goes into effect in November

Oklahoma has become the 46th state to pass a texting and driving law, which will go into effect on November 1.

Passage of bill makes Oklahoma the 46th state to ban texting while driving

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has signed House Bill 1965, which prohibits texting while driving in the state, according to News 9. The new law, which goes into effect November 1, will make Oklahoma the 46th state to have such legislation in place. The bill was named for two highway troopers, one of whom was killed and the other seriously injured, by a distracted driver in a January accident. The incident gave fresh impetus for passing a texting and driving bill, previous versions of which met with fierce opposition and failed to become law.

Primary offense

The passage of the bill makes sending, reading or writing a message on a hand-held electronic device a primary offense punishable by a fine of $100. Drivers are still permitted to use hands-free devices. A prior version of the bill had simply made texting and driving a secondary offense, meaning police would need to first observe drivers committing another offense, such as speeding, before they could pull over and cite drivers for texting and driving. By making texting and driving a primary offense officers will only need to observe drivers texting while behind the wheel in order to pull them over.

Oklahoma is one of the last states to pass a texting and driving law. Previous efforts at creating such legislation were defeated by opponents who argued that existing distracted driving laws made a texting and driving bill unnecessary.

Tragic incident

Sadly, it took a tragic accident to finally provide the impetus necessary to get the bill passed. In January Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers Nicholas Dees and Keith Burch were investigating an accident along Interstate 40 when they were struck by a motorist who was reportedly updating his Facebook status. Dees was killed in the accident while Burch sustained serious injuries. The bill is named for the two officers.

According to the Oklahoman, distractions caused by hand-held electronic devices led to 14 fatal crashes and 602 other accidents that caused injuries in Oklahoma in 2013. Furthermore, in 2010 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that approximately 18 percent of all fatal accidents were caused by distracted drivers.

In an accident?

Hopefully Oklahoma's new texting and driving law will encourage more people to put away their phones while behind the wheel. Unfortunately, there will still be people who choose to flout the law and put other drivers and their families at risk by engaging in this deadly behaviour.

Anybody who has been hurt in a car accident should get in touch with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible, especially if the crash may have been caused by another driver behaving negligently or recklessly at the time. An experienced attorney can guide injured victims through the legal implications raised by an accident and potentially help them recover compensation that they may be entitled to.

Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident