Oklahoma has taken a firm stance against the dangerous practice of texting while driving. As of November 1, 2015, the state has implemented a law forbidding drivers from manually using their phones to type or read any electronic message while their vehicle is in motion on Oklahoma streets or highways. This includes text messages, emails, and posts on social media platforms.
The law is clear: it is a “primary offense” to text and drive, which means law enforcement officers have the authority to stop drivers solely on suspicion of texting. The penalty for breaking this law is a $100 fine. The official language of the Oklahoma’s texting-while-driving law is as follows:
“It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle on any street or highway within this state while using a hand-held electronic communication device to manually compose, send, or read an electronic text message while the motor vehicle is in motion.”
As Oklahomans adjust to this law, it’s natural to have questions about its enforcement and interpretation. Let’s address some of these concerns.
- Decoding the Texting While Driving Ban
- Understanding Exceptions and Enforcement
- Texting at a Red Light: Is It Permitted?
- Who Can Enforce the Texting Ban?
- A National Perspective on Texting While Driving
- Remembering Troopers Dees and Burch
- Text While Driving FAQs
- What is considered “texting” under Oklahoma law?
- Can I use my phone at all while driving in Oklahoma?
- What are the penalties for texting while driving in Oklahoma?
- How can I report a driver who is texting while driving?
- Are there any exceptions to the texting while driving-law?
- What if I’m caught texting while driving in a school zone?
- Can I text while my car is stopped at a traffic light?
- How does the law affect new drivers or teens?
- What technology solutions can help prevent texting while driving?
- How is the law enforced?
Decoding the Texting While Driving Ban
What Constitutes a Violation?
The law’s definition of “text messages” is comprehensive, covering a wide range of electronic communications, such as:
- Text-based messages
- Instant messages
- Electronic messages
- Electronic mail (Email)
This broad scope was influenced by a tragic event where a driver, distracted by social media, caused a fatal accident.
Receiving Messages: Is It Legal?
The law targets manual interaction with electronic devices. You’re in violation if you’re using your hands to type or press buttons to view a message. This is a critical safety measure because such actions divert both your hands and your visual attention away from the task of driving, which can have deadly consequences.
Can I Use Voice Commands to Send Messages?
Yes, the law explicitly allows for speech-to-text messaging, as long as the device is integrated into the vehicle or is a hands-free device that minimizes the need for manual operation.
Understanding Exceptions and Enforcement
Texting at a Red Light: Is It Permitted?
The law applies to vehicles that are “in motion.” There is some ambiguity regarding whether this includes being stationary at a traffic light or in a traffic jam. While some officials argue that texting at a stoplight remains illegal to keep drivers alert, others suggest it may be permissible. This is a point that may require further legal clarification through court decisions.
Who Can Enforce the Texting Ban?
Both the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and local law enforcement officers are tasked with enforcing the law. Several Oklahoma cities have enacted local ordinances that align with the state law to streamline this process, allowing for more efficient local enforcement.
A National Perspective on Texting While Driving
By enacting this law, Oklahoma joined the majority of U.S. states in prohibiting texting while driving. As of October 2015, only a handful of states had yet to implement such a ban.
Remembering Troopers Dees and Burch
This legislation is named in honor of Troopers Nicholas Dees and Keith Burch, whose lives were tragically cut short by a distracted driver. Their story is a poignant reminder of the law’s importance.
Text While Driving FAQs
What is considered “texting” under Oklahoma law?
Under Oklahoma law, “texting” includes using a mobile device to compose, send, or read any form of electronic communication, such as text messages, social media posts, and emails, while driving.
Can I use my phone at all while driving in Oklahoma?
If the device is mounted, you may use your phone for calls with a hands-free device and GPS navigation. Speech-to-text functionality is also allowed.
What are the penalties for texting while driving in Oklahoma?
The penalty for a first offense is a $100 fine. Repeat offenses can result in increased fines, license suspension, and potential criminal charges if the texting leads to a serious accident.
How can I report a driver who is texting while driving?
Contact the Oklahoma Highway Patrol at 1-800-522-8031 to report a suspected texting driver.
Are there any exceptions to the texting while driving-law?
Exceptions include using a hands-free device for calls, texting to report emergencies, and using a GPS device for navigation.
What if I’m caught texting while driving in a school zone?
Texting in a school zone or causing an accident while texting can result in serious criminal charges, such as reckless driving or manslaughter.
Can I text while my car is stopped at a traffic light?
The law’s application to vehicles “in motion” has led to debate. Some interpretations suggest texting at a stoplight is prohibited to ensure drivers remain alert.
How does the law affect new drivers or teens?
The law applies to all drivers, but it’s significant for new drivers and teens to understand the risks of texting while driving and comply with the law to ensure their safety and that of others on the road.
What technology solutions can help prevent texting while driving?
Vehicles equipped with technology that blocks texting while driving and apps that disable messaging functions when the vehicle is in motion can help prevent this dangerous behavior.
How is the law enforced?
Law enforcement officers enforce the law through patrols, checkpoints, and automated traffic enforcement cameras in some cities.