Oklahoma will soon become the 46th state in the country to ban texting while driving statewide, a new law that cannot come soon enough, according to Oklahoma City distracted driving attorney J. Mike Lawter of Lawter & Associates, PLLC in Oklahoma City.
"Texting while driving has become one of the leading causes of car accidents in Oklahoma and nationwide," Lawter said. "That's why we're thrilled this law will soon go into effect statewide. Every driver on the road will benefit from this new law. We realize there will be a learning curve for some drivers who currently text while driving. But the reality is people need to realize that texting is one of the most dangerous things they can do while driving. Once people know this, we hope they will do the safe thing and put their phone down while driving."
In May, Oklahoma politicians passed a law banning texting while driving for all drivers statewide, according to numerous news outlets, including The Oklahoman newspaper. (NewsOk, "Oklahoma bans texting while driving," May 5, 2015) The new law goes into effect Nov. 1.
Passed overwhelmingly by state lawmakers, the new law makes texting while driving a primary offense subject to a $100 fine. That means Oklahoma police officers have the authority to stop a driver simply for texting while driving rather than another offense, according to The Oklahoman newspaper.
In recent years, texting while driving has become one of the most common causes of distracted driving accidents in Oklahoma and nationwide. In 2013, Oklahoma drivers distracted by electronic devices caused 14 fatal car accidents and injured 602 people statewide, according to The Oklahoman newspaper. Nationwide, more than 3,300 people were killed and 387,000 injured in distracted driving accidents in 2011, according to AAA Oklahoma's website. (AAA Oklahoma, "Laws of Distraction: Scary Stats About Distracted Driving")
When the new law goes into effect, Oklahoma will become the 46th state nationwide to ban texting while driving. In addition, an additional 14 states nationwide also ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, as of October 2015.
Numerous studies have been done demonstrating the dangers of texting while driving. One study in particular found that texting while driving increases the risk of the driver being involved in a car accident by 23 times, according to a New York Times article about the study. (The New York Times, "In Study, Texting Lifts Crash Risk by Large Margin," July 27, 2009)
Educating Oklahoma drivers about the dangers of texting while driving and the reasons behind the new state law will be the key to putting an end to this practice throughout the state, according to Oklahoma City car accident lawyer J. Mike Lawter of Lawter & Associates, PLLC.
"Drivers need to understand that Oklahoma's new texting ban isn't being done arbitrarily," Lawter said. "This new law was enacted for one simple reason - to save lives. Some people, especially younger drivers, think they can safely text and drive. The reality is none of us can. And we're not just putting ourselves at risk when we do so. Everyone on the road is in danger when someone texts and drives. We realize the new law will be hard for some drivers to adjust to. But we can't say enough how critical it is for all drivers to make this one simple change - simply stop texting and driving. It's not just about following the law. It's about doing the right thing for everyone's sake."