Driving While Intexticated: Driving Legislation, For and Opposed

Thursday, July 16th 2009, 11:26 am
By: News On 6

By Doug Warner, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY - After calls and pleas for cell phones and driving legislation, many are left wondering what the holdup is.

Representative Sue Tibbs of Tulsa is asking the same question after the last legislative session when her "hands-free only" bill hit the floor.

"(Bill) 1782 was heard in committee. It did pass committee, then assigned to the floor. This bill did not get heard. I didn't get an explanation why it wasn't given a hearing," Tibbs said.

Tibbs is just the latest in a string of lawmakers looking to put a dent in the business of "Driving While InTEXTicated." She said even though many drivers are aware of the dangers of using a cell phone while driving, most of them still do it.

"Apparently they're not going to police themselves. If they're not going to do that, then we must help them," Tibbs said.

However, fellow Republican Representative Rex Duncan said it's the drivers who should be listening especially since many drivers have said they think there's already too much government intervention.

"If you just targeted cell phones, why not target women putting make up on," Duncan said.

In fact, Representative Duncan said he feels there's enough distracted driving laws & city ordinances already on the books. Duncan also said he thinks cell phone legislation targeting teen drivers would constitute a form of police profiling.

Current distracted driving laws in some cities allow officers to pull over drivers if the officer thinks the driver is not paying attention to the road.

"In order for me to pull them over, there has to be some sort of gross negligence that I can see," said Oklahoma City Police Sergeant Matt Downing.

But NEWS 9 Legal Analyst Irven Box said under the current distracted driving laws and city ordinances it can be difficult prove that a driver was distracted by a cell phone.

"I just don't see courts finding that person wasn't devoting full time and attention because they had a cell phone to the ear," Box said.

Tulsa officer Keith Fallis said he would like to see driving restrictions with more traction.

"If you have a law, geez, you're not suppose to have your cell phone in the hands, there's a violation. It's obvious to see," Fallis said.

However, without state-wide cell phone restrictions, Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers have no authority over city ordinances and laws. State law dictates that a trooper can only write a "distraction driver" ticket only after a car accident.

"I just hope people wake up. No phone call is worth yours or anyone else's life," said Jennifer Smith, whose mother was killed after she was hit by a driver distracted by his cell phone.