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Governor signs texting while driving ban bill into law

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OKLAHOMA CITY --Gov. Mary Fallin signed HB 1965 into law Tuesday afternoon, making texting while driving illegal in Oklahoma.

The bill is called the “Trooper Nicholas Dees and Keith Burch Act of 2015,” in honor of the troopers who were involved in a crash in January east of Shawnee.

A driver, who was allegedly updating social media while driving, hit the troopers, killing Dees and seriously injuring Burch.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, texting while driving makes drivers 23 times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.

Governor Fallin was joined by members of the troopers' families as she signed the bill into law.

She says she hopes the law will save lives.

“My hope is that this bill does more than just change the law,” Fallin said. “As a state, we need to change the way we think about texting while driving. The fact is it’s dangerous. If we can get people to think about it that way, we can drive more responsibly, save a lot of lives and make our roads much safer.”

The law makes texting while driving a primary offense, meaning police can pull anyone who does it over and give them a $100 ticket.

Senator Ervin Yen says that making texting and driving a primary offense will have a big impact.

"States with primary-enforcement laws saw an overall reduction of three percent in traffic fatalities," he says. "For young drivers between 15 and 21, there was an 11 percent reduction in fatalities.  That’s huge."

He says research shows states that only had secondary enforcement saw virtually no change.

"Primary enforcement saves lives," says Yen.

Oklahoma is the 46th state to have a law banning texting while driving.

It has exceptions for certain emergency situations and specifies it will not apply to devices operated in a voice-activated mode in which a driver’s hands would not be needed to write, send or read a text message.

The law goes into effect Nov. 1.