Banning Texting & Driving: 6th Time Is The Charm?

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OKLAHOMA-- Oklahoma lawmakers and lobbyists plan on cracking down on texting and driving in 2015.

They're hoping the sixth time is the charm.

A texting and driving law has been defeated at the capitol for five straight years, even though distracted driving is the leading cause of injury and death on roads and highways.

"The seat belt law is hard to enforce (too), but it's saving lives," Chuck Mai, spokesperson for AAA Oklahoma, said Wednesday.

Mai said just knowing that texting is illegal while driving will make our roads safer.

"It's too risky. Don't do it. There's a law against it," he said, "and most people will follow the law."

So why would a bill pass this year?

Proponents say the statistics are on their side.

In the 44 states that currently ban texting while driving, traffic fatalities are down 3%.

But for the 15-to-21 age group in those 44 states, traffic fatalities are down 11%.

"This is a problem and we need to save lives," Sen. Ron Sharp (R-Shawnee), who filed Senate Bill 67, said Wednesday, "and we don't want someone driving in our rear view mirror to be in our front seat."

Sharp's legislation would ban the use of cell phones to text, email or call while driving.

He says it addresses opponents' concerns that pulling someone over for texting would violate their privacy rights.

"It's just like an officer seeing someone running a stop sign or running a red light," Sharp said. "It's just the officer's word. 'Yes, I saw this individual with a cell phone in their hand'."

SB 67 would not apply to bluetooth technology that allows drivers to keep both hands on the wheel while talking on the phone.

"I think it's time that we do this," Sharp said. "It's a critical issue among drivers."

Mai said drivers are 23 times more likely to crash if they're texting - and surveys created on Sharpe's behalf say more than half of all drivers would change their behavior to follow the law - a specific law - not just a "distracted driving" law.

Violators would face up to a thousand dollar fine and/or up to a year in jail.

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