The full Senate has given its support to a bill that would make it illegal to text while driving. State Sen. Jerry Ellis is the author of Senate Bill 146 which was approved on a vote of 32 to 9 on Wednesday.
This isnt a new problem, but it is a growing problem, and the public is seeing first-hand how texting while driving increases the chance of being in an accident, said Ellis, D-Valliant.
Research supports the concerns Ellis outlinedthe University of Utah conducted research that found people who were texting were just as impaired as drunk drivers. In addition, a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found texting while driving makes a person 23 times more likely to be in a collision.
Under the legislation, first-time offenders would face a fine of up to $175. Subsequent violations could result in a fine of up to $500. If the driver is involved in a crash at the time of violation, the fine would be double those amounts. The new fines would apply to drivers of all ages.
Certainly texting while driving is dangerous for an inexperienced teen driver, but weve seen fatal accidents here in Oklahoma caused by adults who werent watching the road because they were texting, Ellis said, adding the bill has the support of AARP.
The legislation does provide exceptions for emergency and medical personnel or law enforcement, as well as for drivers who are using a wireless telecommunication to report illegal activity, summon emergency help or to prevent injury to a person or property.
SB 146 now moves to the House for further consideration.