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Oklahoma texting-while-driving opponents fight for statewide ban

The fight to ban texting while driving continues in Oklahoma. Groups say texting while driving is one of the biggest dangers on Oklahoma roads.
by Robert Medley Published: March 17, 2013

Heather Yazdanipour has seen the surge of cellphone use by drivers in heavy traffic during the past decade.

Yazdanipour, a paramedic with Emergency Medical Services Authority, said her crew swerves and brakes on a daily basis to avoid distracted drivers who are texting or reading texts on their phones.

From the back of the ambulance, while rushing with a patient to a hospital, she often hears the driver yell, “Quick stop!” as another texting driver has swerved into their lane.

En route to one call, a distracted driver sideswiped the ambulance, Yazdanipour said.

And at many wrecks, the evidence shows texting contributed to the cause, she said.

“It's the biggest thing we are dealing with today, drivers who are texting or reading apps on their iPhone,” Yazdanipour said.

Texting while driving should be banned, she said.

“I do think there needs to be something done to deter people from doing it,” Yazdanipour said. “I can sit at a stoplight in traffic and it seems every other driver has a cellphone.”

Dallas Hutchinson was 23 when he died in July 2010 while texting and driving near Cushing.

His mother, Cheryl Nichols, of Tahlequah, wants texting while driving banned in Oklahoma. She is not alone.

However, a bill that would ban texting while driving will not be taken up by the House this year after the measure was tabled Tuesday for the second time in two weeks.

Drivers are 23 times more likely to crash when texting while driving, said Chuck Mai, AAA Oklahoma spokesman. That's because a driver takes his or her eyes off the road for an average 4.6 seconds while texting.

“That's not very long but if you count up to five Mississippis, it's enough time to die,” Mai said.

Support for a law banning texting while driving is gaining support, he said.

Dave Koeneke, executive director of Oklahoma Safety Council and Drive Aware Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, said texting while driving is one of the biggest dangers on the roads these days.

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by Robert Medley
Breaking News Reporter
Robert Medley has been a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1989, covering various news beats in the Oklahoma City metro area and in the Norman news bureau. He has been part of the breaking news team since 2008. A 1987 University of Oklahoma...
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