The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OSHO) defines distracted driving as any activity that takes your focus off the road.
There are three main types of distraction, namely:
- Cognitive (daydreaming, fatigue, talking to passengers)
- Manual (eating, adjusting controls, reaching for items)
- Visual (texting, grooming, looking at billboards)
According to the 2019 Oklahoma Public Safety report, distracted driving was responsible for 41 deaths and 1,604 injuries in the state that year.
On a national scale, the problem contributes to an estimated 2,800 deaths and 400,000 injuries per year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The same source points out that around 20% of fatalities in accidents involving distracted drivers are people who were walking, cycling or otherwise not in any vehicle.
So, what are the laws surrounding distracted driving in Oklahoma? And what can you do to stay safe on the roads?
Banning Distracted Driving
Oklahoma became the 46th state to ban texting and driving in 2015 when lawmakers passed the statute known as “The Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act of 2015.” It was named for two police officers who were hit by a motorist accused of texting and driving while they were investigating an accident scene. In the following year:
- Total vehicle accidents decreased by 12%
- Injuries in crashes decreased by 22%
- Traffic fatalities decreased by 30%
The standard penalty for violating the texting-while-driving ban in Oklahoma is a $100 fine. That number increases to $500 and a misdemeanor for drivers working in commercial and public transportation sectors. Drivers under 18 face suspension or revocation of their license.
This comes over and above the cost of insurance claims, lawsuits, medical bills, vehicle repairs, and numerous other potential expenses. That’s why it’s vital to stay prepared with suitable insurance cover and contact details for a reputable car accident lawyer.
What Exactly is Banned?
The statewide law prohibits more than just texting behind the wheel. Any form of smartphone use, be it reading, checking social media, or making a call is subject to penalties. All motorists are required to “devote their full time and attention to the act of driving.” Those with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses are not exempt from these laws.
However, there are several valid exceptions, including:
- Devices that are integrated into the vehicle
- Built-in voice-operated systems
- Hands-free technology
- Ignition interlock devices (IID)
Also, state laws do not apply to drivers when communicating with:
- Emergency response operators
- Hospitals or health clinics
- Ambulance, firefighting, or police services
Avoiding Distracted Driving
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests the following strategies for drivers:
- Don’t attempt to multitask
- Finish activities such as grooming and eating before heading off
- Use apps like Canary and TextArrest to reduce distractions
Passengers can help to reduce distracted driving risks by:
- Speaking up and asking the driver to focus on the road
- Assisting with tasks such as navigation and answering messages
The best thing you can do is to set the example and educate loved ones on distracted driving. Every effort contributes to making the roads a safer place.
Steps to Take if You Were Injured by a Distracted Driver
If you were hurt on the road by a distracted driver, your best bet is to contact an experienced car accident attorney in Oklahoma to discuss your case. Be careful before accepting a settlement without first having your case properly evaluated.