Associated Press

EDMOND, OK -- Some Oklahoma state lawmakers are backing proposals that would ban motorists from using handheld cell phones and require schools to provide driver education courses with specific warnings about text messaging.
Thirteen traffic fatalities in Oklahoma last year were blamed on drivers who were texting or distracted by other portable electronics.

The next legislative session in February is expected to include a bill by Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, to ban the handheld use of electronic devices while driving a motor vehicle.

10/08/2009  Related Story: Tulsa City Council Urges Ban Against Texting And Driving

A separate bill that Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City, plans to introduce would require schools to include curriculum to educate young drivers that includes information about the dangers of sending or receiving text messages while behind the wheel.

He said momentum is building to restrict texting and the use of mobile phones while driving.

"For public safety, we need young drivers as informed and capable as they can be," McDaniel said.

"This is a very interesting issue for me," he said. "When do your freedoms stop? And really it's when you're harming somebody else."

In neighboring Arkansas, "Paul's Law" went into effect on Oct. 1, a ban on texting or e-mailing behind the wheel. It was named for Paul Davidson of Jonesboro, Ark., a father of three who was killed when a texting driver struck his vehicle.

McDaniel said preventing loss of life makes it worth the inconvenience of the ban.

"I am definitely in favor of stopping the texting," McDaniel said.

The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office said the 2008 deaths illustrate how texting behind the wheel is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Nine states prohibit novice drivers from text messaging.