Oklahoma HB 1316
The following letter was sent by the FTLOB’s household to OK State Rep. Sullivan concerning his decision to not allow HB 1316 to come to a hearing on the House floor. For all of you locals, please write Sullivan and urge him to allow democracy to proceed. Sullivan’s email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Representative Daniel Sullivan
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
March 14, 2011
Dear Representative Sullivan:
It is our understanding that you are not allowing HB 1316 to have a hearing on the House floor, although it passed the House Public Safety Committee by a vote of 9 to 7.
We understand that you believe that the texting while driving issue is covered by the state’s current distracted driving laws. Generally a person is cited for distracted driving after an accident has occurred and one of the purposes of this bill is to prevent accidents, not wait until they have happened. In fact, Oklahoma’s existing laws require a violation or other demonstration of distraction before law enforcement can act. Existing state laws against reckless driving and distracted driving do not clearly capture all activities that constitute driving recklessly or being distracted. We believe that the risks involved in text messaging while driving are such that it warrants being singled out legislatively to allow officers to enforce it before a crash or traffic violation occurs.
With reports of texting while driving on the rise, it is clear that education and enforcing Oklahoma’s reckless driving laws aren’t working. Nationwide, text messaging is soaring. In December, phone users in the United States sent 110 billion messages, a tenfold increase in just three years, according to the cellular phone industry’s trade group, CTIA.
We understand that enforcement of a texting law will present special challenges, but the tell-tale bobbing of the head as the driver texts and drives is a dead giveaway. While some texting may not be easily spotted, the texting law would be enforced just as DUI laws are now, at the time the driver is stopped for another offense or in the event of a crash. A drunk driver goes un-noticed on Oklahoma roads until he is observed drinking behind the wheel or is stopped for another offense or is involved in a crash. Yet we have a DUI law. Enforcement of a texting while driving law would be done the same way, much the same as seat belt laws are enforced. Even without significant enforcement, passing a law can have great safety benefits through compliance based on the fear of being ticketed, the social stigma attached to a behavior that has been made illegal. Many look to the law as the standard for traffic safety.
While some may think that forbidding texting while driving is an infringement of our personal rights, our driver’s licenses can currently now be taken away for a variety of reasons. The law requires us to not speed, to not drink and drive, etc. These laws could all be considered infringements of our personal rights, but they were passed for the greater good.
This is a public safety issue that we are dealing with here and we think it is reasonable to ask that the bill get a fair hearing and vote on the floor of the House. At such time that the House votes on this bill then the will of the people will be done. To not allow a vote on the floor is to infringe on the rights of all Oklahoma citizens and their duly elected representative to vote on a bill that has move through the committee process as this bill has.
We hope that in the interest of public safety and fairness that you will allow this bill to move to the House floor for debate and vote.