Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, said this week.
A bipartisan effort to ban texting and cell phone use without a "hands free" device is being led by state Rep. Sue Tibbs, a Tulsa Republican, and Morgan, who has served as leader of the House Democrats since 2006. While a similar effort was narrowly defeated last year, Tibbs and Morgan are optimistic other legislators will find the new statistical information persuasive enough to gain passage the proposal.
"The National Safety Council estimates that the use of cell phones while driving led to 1.4 million traffic accidents in 2008, from a total of 4.1 million accidents," Morgan observed. "That‘s just too many to ignore. We will not be meeting our responsibility to keep our roads safe if we continue to allow these numbers to climb. Representative Tibbs and I hope our efforts can serve as an example of how Republicans and Democrats can work together on common sense initiatives to save the lives of our fellow Oklahomans."
The statistics show that anyone talking on a cell phone without a hands free device is at four times the risk of being in an accident compared with drivers not using the phone, according to the NSC study.
If that weren’t alarming enough, the study shows that the risk of an accident for those using the texting functions of their phones is eight to 23 times greater. Other studies tend toward the higher number, such as a 2009 analysis of commercial truck drivers by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute which found those engaged in texting while driving were 23 times more likely to have a crash or near crash experience.
The study found that cell phone use was the cause for 25 percent of all accidents in 2008, with at least three percent more caused by texting.
"In light of these new statistics, it is apparent the Legislature needs to act on this issue," Tibbs said.
"The information we have shows that texting while driving poses a greater threat than driving while drunk," said Morgan. "Now most folks have the sense to realize that taking one's eyes off the road to type messages isn’t a safe thing to do, but we have to come up with a way to discourage the drivers who don’t seem to have that much regard for their own lives or those of others.
"The idea of a national ban on texting is now being debated at the federal level, but we don’t want any more Oklahomans to lose life or property while we wait for Washington to act," Morgan added. "We also believe the public is behind us on this, as a recent American Automobile Association study found 89 percent of Americans believe texting while driving should be illegal."