Gina Harris, whose 19-year-old daughter was killed in a car collision while taking on her cellphone to her best friend, tearfully implored lawmakers Wednesday to pass legislation to outlaw texting while driving.
Brittanie Montgomery, who was named to the NBA's Oklahoma City Hornets dance team shortly before the 2006 wreck in Oklahoma City, lost control of her vehicle, which went across four lanes of traffic. Her car was struck by a car carrying a family of four, which included a pregnant mom.
“My daughter's choice almost ended five other lives, which I am so thankful that did not happen,” said Harris, of Tulsa.
It's illegal in Oklahoma for new teen drivers to text and drive, but that prohibition expires for most.
“The law that we have banning text-driving is clearly not enough,” she said.
House Bill 1503, which passed a House of Representatives committee earlier and is awaiting a hearing in the full House, would allow a fine of as much as $500 for people 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.
Harris said she has met opposition mostly from Republican lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature who consider a ban as government intrusion on individual rights.
Jennifer Parrott, pediatric trauma program coordinator at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center, said she was texting three years ago when she crashed her vehicle, totaling it and two others. She and several others were injured.
“I've not only had trauma patients die in my care because of texting and driving but now I've also caused injury to myself and two of my other friends,” she said.
Parrott, 33, said she supported HB 1503.
“It's a no-brainer,” she said. “It's a dangerous, dangerous choice not to pass this law.”
Chuck Mai, with AAA Oklahoma, said a task force called Drive Aware Oklahoma has been formed to seek passage of the measure.
“Our motorists are scared to death of texting drivers,” he said.
Health Commissioner Terry Cline said texting while driving violates the basic drivers' education rules of motorists keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel.
“Somewhere along the line we've lost that,” he said, saying a driver is up to 23 times more likely to crash when texting.