Oklahoma measure to ban texting while driving hits roadblock goes off road

The Oklahoma House of Representatives committee that decides whether measures will be heard by the full House has stalled a bill that would ban texting while driving.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: February 28, 2013 at 10:03 pm •  Published: March 1, 2013
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A bill that would ban texting while driving in Oklahoma has run into a ditch.

The House of Representatives Calendar Committee, which has the authority to determine which measures are to be heard by the full House, voted Thursday to table House Bill 1503.

The committee, which was established by the Republican-led House of Representatives, can vote again on whether to allow the measure, which has bipartisan support, to advance to the House.

The deadline for measures originating in the House to be heard, voted on and passed onto the Senate is March 14.

House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who has voted against similar legislation in the past, said he doesn't support HB 1503, which would allow a fine of as much as $500 for motorists caught using a cellphone to write, send or read a text message, instant message or email while driving. The measure includes exceptions for emergency response operators, medical officials, ambulance drivers, firefighters and law enforcement officials.

“I haven't been a big fan of it,” said Shannon, R-Lawton.

He said the bill would take away individual rights and that law enforcement officers already can pull over motorists on a reckless driving complaint who appear to be distracted from driving.

“There is a slippery slope argument to be made what people are doing inside their cars, especially as technology changes so quickly,” he said. “Texting is one thing. What about reading the newspaper on your phone? …. What about changing the music on your iPod?

“It's already against the law to drive while distracted,” Shannon said. “You're breaking the law if an officer catches you driving and being distracted, whether you're reading the newspaper, whether you're putting on makeup, whether you're shaving or whether you're texting. It's against the law already.”

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