Bill To Outlaw Cell Phones In Oklahoma School Zones Well Received

Wednesday, February 26th 2014, 11:32 pm
By: Tess Maune

A bill to ban cell phones in Oklahoma school zones has passed a big hurdle. It got the green light in the Senate Public Safety Committee, which means it will now move to the full Senate for a vote. It's a proposal that has schools cheering.

School zones can be a busy place; whether it's the morning or afternoon, you've got parents lining up and kids darting between cars. It's a place where an accident can happen, distracted or not. And a proposed law is meant to help eliminate one of the biggest distractions of all, cell phones.

With a steady stream of traffic, comes a steady stream of children.

Marquette Catholic School Principal Pete Theban, said, "You want it to be smooth every single day.

Theban can be found most days manning one of the crosswalks outside Tulsa's Marquette Catholic School. He's seen a lot changes in the nearly 40 years he's worked in the school system, the most recent, cell phones.

"I think one of the distractions is technology," Theban said.

His school, like many others in the state, simply asks parents to put the phone down while dropping off and picking up their children; it's even posted on the school's marquee.

"It's just a good visual reminder, for 10 to 15 minutes while we're picking up our kids, let's just focus on the children first and then we can get on to the other duties," said Theban.

Lawmakers want to make it illegal for drivers to use their phones in school zones. The bill makes exceptions for cars that are stopped, drivers who are using hands free devices, and emergency phone calls.

"I thought, ‘Ah-ha, well finally somebody's getting around to that,' because as I mentioned, it can be a distraction," said Theban.

A 4-year-old Oklahoma City boy was accidentally hit and killed in a school parking lot Tuesday morning, police said his dad was behind the wheel.

Julie Evans, a parent teacher at Marquette, said, "You don't want a tragic accident to happen. Accidents happen when you're going about your daily business, so it's good to have reminders."

She said parents aren't necessarily the problem around school zones.

"There's been a lot of times that I've had to shove my hand in front of a child. It's mostly the people that don't realize that school is letting out," Evans said.

Parents and teachers both say kids can be distracted, too. When they get out of school they get on their cells phones, immediately look down and start walking. So it's a good idea for parents to have a talk with their kids about being cautious, and for the younger ones, it's just best to keep them close and hold their hands.