ARDMORE, Okla. -- An Oklahoma lawmaker believes drivers are doing more than just talking on their phones while on the road. Representative Paul Wesselhoft says sending text messages while driving is a growing but dangerous trend.
Technically, ‘texting while driving’ is not illegal in the state of Oklahoma. In fact, there isn’t a law against it, but one Oklahoma lawmaker wants to make test messaging while driving illegal.
District 54 Representative Paul Wesselhoft says he noticed the danger when he saw his own son get distracted, and that's when he decided to try to make driving in Oklahoma safer.
"My son, the other day, was going over the white line, and I nudged him and said ‘pay attention,’ and I realized he was text messaging. That’s when I got the idea for this bill."
"There’s not a current statue on that, but with that we see people on phones, and that divided attention making unsafe lane changes," says Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Ken Duncan.
They say the number of accidents in Oklahoma involving drivers using cell phones backs that up. There were eight times more accidents involving cell phones last year then there were nine years ago.
"In 1998, there were only 98 crashes. In 2006, there were 802 crashes. That’s a big jump," says Duncan.
Those statistics came from the Oklahoma Department of Safety, and that's why Wesselhoft wants stiffer penalties for using a cell phone in any way, and law enforcement backs him up.
"It’s just going to grow to a number that it might not be cell phones but all technical devices to where its taking away attention from what they are doing when they need to be driving," says Trooper Duncan.
"If there’s a wreck and is attributable to cell phone use, it’s a misdemeanor, which is a 20-day mandatory sentence and a $1,000 fine," says Representative Wesselhoft.
If Wesselhoft gets his way, and you get caught “texting while driving,” you could end up paying a stiff penalty.