On November 1st, new changes will go into effect regarding Oklahoma’s texting while driving laws, and this article highlights the incoming changes and other information you need to know before the bill becomes law.
Legal Changes Resulting from Oklahoma House Bill 1965
The most obvious change is this: it is now illegal to text while driving. More specifically, such behavior is now a primary offense, which gives police officers the right to pull a vehicle over if a driver is observed to be texting. Earlier versions of the bill made texting and driving a mere secondary offense, which meant officers were allowed to pull the vehicle over only if the driver had committed an additional action that was an unlawful primary offense.
While some detractors suggest the law is redundant since Oklahoma already has a distracted driving law, the change is a meaningful one because officers are now empowered to pull drivers over without having to worry about whether their behavior falls within the legal limits and scope of their duties.
Penalties for Violating the New Texting Law
The fine for violating the law will be $100, but it is important to note that a violation would not add points against the driver’s license. As such, the present regulation is a simple fine, and the legislature made it clear the law prevents municipalities from passing ordinances that are more restrictive than House Bill 1965.
How Can an Officer Even Prove That a Texting Violation Occurred?
It is worth noting there could be problems with enforcement once the law goes into effect. Essentially, it will be the officer’s word against the citizen’s, and it will be difficult to prove a texting violation did in fact occur without further evidence. Basically, it will boil down to who is telling the truth, which is a tricky thing to sort out and will likely need addressing in the years ahead if the law is to be enforced as intended.
Why the New Law Is Being Put Into Effect
Reasonable minds might wish to know what changes occurred that made the legislature feel that the new law was necessary. Unfortunately, the reason is a tragic one that could have been prevented. A driver was engrossed in texting when his vehicle struck two police officers at a high speed, killing them in the process. As a result of the tragic death of these two officers, the bill has been termed “The Trooper Nicholas Dees and Keith Burch Act of 2015”, but the reasons for the new law go beyond this isolated incident.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, texting while driving makes an accident 23 times more likely. Compare that with the 6 times increase from drinking and driving, and it is clear that this law is a necessary step towards curtailing socially harmful and dangerous texting.
Oklahoma House Bill 1965 Exemptions
It is important to know that there are exceptions to the new bill. The new bill does not apply if a person is communicating with an emergency response operator, medical personnel, firefighters or law enforcement. Additionally, the new changes do not apply to drivers using devices that are operated through a voice-activated mode in which a driver’s hands would not be needed to write, send or read a text. In short, the new bill is focused on manual usage of the device. For truck drivers, this means it is prudent to find ways that allow a driver to use technology while on the job in a hands-free way in order to comply with the new law.
As with any law, especially newly enacted ones, there are always discrepancies. If you feel that you have been charged unjustly, call the attorneys at Laird Hammons Laird and we will make sure your rights are protected.