What you can and can’t do under Oklahoma City’s texting while driving ban

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Even with a state law set to take effect Nov. 1, Oklahoma City leaders are worked to pass their own ordinance to ban texting and driving.

"We could enforce state law, but that would require us to make an arrest, make a report [and] have them post bond,"said Oklahoma City police chief Bill Citty, because the city does not issue state citations. "Basically, the officers wouldn't go through the trouble of enforcing it, if they had to go through the state law versus writing you a citation."

So, instead, the city council is pushing ahead with its own, nearly identical measure, after the state passed House Bill 1965 earlier this year.

On Tuesday, the city council passed the ban, which will go into effect Nov. 1.

The city ordinance says it will be illegal to use a hand-held device to "compose, send or read:"

  • Text messages
  • Instant messages
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Emails

Violators would be assessed a $100 fine.

"Anything where you're actually punching in something is going to be considered texting and you're going to be subject to a citation," Citty said. "I mean, just looking at your phone would not be subject to that, but actually texting and having to take your eye off the road for a considerable amount of time."

There are exceptions to the law.

During an "imminent emergency," the law says people will be able to communicate with:

  • Emergency response operators
  • Hospitals, physician's offices or health clinics
  • Ambulance services
  • Firefighters
  • Law enforcement agencies

"I think it sends a huge message to the population that it's dangerous," Citty said. "It's not just about enforcement. Really, you want voluntary compliance. You want people to not text. And, in many cases, having a law in place is a deterrent to that."

But, some people feel there are simply too many laws in place.  David Brooke, for one, is urging the city council to vote against it.

"We just don't need any more laws," Brooke said. "We have far too many laws in this country. There [are] already inattentive driving [laws] out there.  If you want to discourage it, discourage it in different way."

Brooke says he's not encouraging people to text while they're behind the wheel.  He just doesn't feel the law is necessary.

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