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Law banning texting while driving moves forward

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A law to ban texting while driving in Oklahoma is gaining steam at the Capitol.

Several people, from lawmakers to teenagers, came to a press conference Wednesday afternoon to show their support for House Bill 1503, authored by Rep. Curtis McDaniel (D-Dist. 1).

Under the bill, drivers would be given a $500 fine if they are caught texting while driving.

More specifically, if they drive "while using a cellular telephone or electronic communication device to compose, send or read a text-based communication while the motor vehicle is in motion."

The statistics presented by supporters were staggering.

Eleven teenagers die every day in the U.S. because of texting and driving.

The practice is also six times more dangerous than drunk driving.

"Dec. 21, 2006 is one of those days that's permanently in my head," Gina Harris said.

That's the day Harris lost her 19-year-old daughter, Brittanie, in a car crash.

The UCO student was driving on Northwest Expressway, using her cell phone.

She lost control, swerved into oncoming traffic and was hit by a family of five.

"My daughter's choice almost ended five other lives, which I am so thankful that did not happen," Harris said.

McDaniel said he has heard the argument that the law would infringe on drivers' personal rights.

"Driving is a privilege folks, it's not a God-given right," he said.

McDaniel pointed out the current "distracted driving" law is only enforced after a driver crashes or drives erratically.

This bill is meant to prevent the crash.

"Kids say (texting while driving) is not illegal, so it must be OK," McDaniel said. "No, it's not OK. It's imperative that we go forward with this legislation so we can save lives and send kids to school and not to the graveyard."

"It's not that I lost a daughter, it's the fact that my daughter lost her mom also, trying to heal, and as a mom, trying to grieve and get over this, which is still ongoing," Harris said. "I'll never get over it completely. I just won't."

Harris said Brittanie wanted to help abused children for her career.

House Bill 1503 easily passed the Transportation Committee by a 12-to-2 vote and it will soon head to the House floor.

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