Texting while driving could cost $100

Texting and DrivingDrivers who text, post to social media, or enter an address into their GPS while driving could now face a $100 fine, said Oklahoma Safety Council Executive Director Dave Koeneke.

Under the Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act, officers can pull over drivers who are manually entering text information into their cell phones, Koeneke said.

Koeneke said the law will be strictly enforced. He said even pushing one button on a phone while driving could result in being pulled over.

The bill was signed into law in May 2015 and went into effect Nov. 1, according to oklegislature.gov.

It is named after two troopers who were struck by a vehicle while investigating an overturned tractor-trailer, a press release from Gov. Mary Fallin states. Dees died at the scene and Burch was hospitalized. The driver who struck the two men was using a smartphone at the time.

In part, the bill reads: “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle on any street or highway within this state while using a hand-held electronic communication device to manually compose, send or read an electronic text message while the motor vehicle is in motion.”

Koeneke said drivers can do anything that is voice activated, including voice-activated texting, bluetooth and hands-free calling.

Drivers also can hold a phone while talking although, he said, that is discouraged.

Under the new law, surfing the web, posting to social media, emailing and selfies are illegal while driving.

Koeneke said because it’s a primary law, those texting don’t have to be driving unsafely or involved in an accident to be pulled over and fined.

“ … If the car is weaving, typically going slow — those are signs that someone is using a cell phone and probably not paying attention to the road,” he said.

Koeneke said while most drivers wouldn’t think of closing their eyes for four and a half seconds while at the wheel, that’s the average time it takes to read or write a text — and that’s all it takes for minds to disengage.

“You’re choosing to put yourself in harm by not wearing a seatbelt,” he said.

“If you’re texting, you’re putting everybody else in harm because you’re all over the road, not paying attention.”

Koeneke said although texting at a stoplight is legal, he discourages it.

“It’s real tough to put that phone down when you’re typing away and the light turns green,” he said.

“You take your foot off the brake, you touch the accelerator and you’re considered moving.”

Koeneke said no points will be taken from driver’s license and there are no court costs associated with the fine. He also said police officers do not have the right to take your phone.

He said if you suspect someone may be texting and driving, report it by calling 911 or calling the Oklahoma Highway Patrol at *55.

To read House Bill 1965, visit oklegislature.gov.

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