Proposed bill could help prevent distracted driving accidents

As in most states, distracted driving is a constant problem in Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, more than 11,000 auto accidents were caused by distracted drivers in 2012. That may change if a State Senate bill that prohibits distracted driving passes the state legislature.

Although Oklahoma already has distracted driving laws on the books, Senate Bill 442 expands the definition and penalties for distracted driving. Authored by Senator Ron Sharp, the bill proposes that merely reading a text message while behind the wheel would be illegal, and penalties for reading, composing and sending messages could be as high as $500. The bill would also ban using electronic messaging such as email and texting while driving.

The bill was requested by the American Automobile Association. The AAA has spent 5 years trying to get texting while driving banned. The Ardmore AAA’s branch manager says texting is a “triple threat”: A driver’s mind is not focused on traffic, a driver’s eyes are off the road and a driver’s hands are not on the wheel.

The manager added that 96 percent of AAA Oklahoma members supported the legislation. State troopers also showed support; one trooper hoped the bill would prevent crashes and make drivers concentrate more on the road. The bill recently received a nod from the Public Safety Committee and will now be up for voting in the coming weeks.

The concern over distracted driving is well deserved. Besides crashes that result in injuries, distracted driving can easily lead to fatal accidents. In such a case, the family of a victim can file a wrongful death lawsuit against a negligent driver. In addition to the appeal for justice, legal action may lead to a monetary award to help the family cope with financial troubles that result from the loss.

Source: kten.com, “Senate Bill Would Ban Texting While Driving,” Zack Hedrick, Feb. 22, 2014

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