More and more states are warming to the idea of banning text messaging while driving. It will be interesting to watch whether Oklahoma follows suit next legislative session.
State Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, was unsuccessful last year in trying to ban texting behind the wheel but vows to continue her efforts. On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Sue Tibbs of Tulsa has said she will sponsor a bill that bans text-messaging at the wheel and requires drivers to use hands-free devices to talk on cell phones.
As of September, 18 states and the District of Columbia have made it illegal to drive and text. Eleven of those laws went on the book this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Sixteen other states considered such laws during 2009, Oklahoma among them.
Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri are among the states that ban texting while driving only for young drivers. Colorado and Arkansas are nearby states that have banned the practice for all drivers, although Missouri may join that list. Several bills have been filed for 2010 to extend the ban to inexperienced and veteran drivers alike. One Missouri lawmaker said targeting only young drivers is "like saying, ‘You can kill yourself if you’re over 21.’”
At least one bill in Congress would require states to ban texting behind the wheel if they don’t want to lose a chunk of their federal highway funds. So it may be just a matter of time before Oklahoma is forced to get on board.