On May 5, 2015, Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill No. 1965, making Oklahoma the 46th State to prohibit texting while driving. Specifically, Section 2(A) states, “[i]t 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.” However, the law does quite a bit more than just prohibit texting while driving. First, “electronic communication device” is not limited to just a cell phone. It includes any electronic device that permits the user to manually transmit written text. Second, and perhaps most important, “text message” is not limited to just a text message, but is defined to include text-based messages, instant messages, electronic messages, photo, video or electronic mail.
There are also several exceptions to the ban on texting while driving built into the law. For example, a driver may use “a device that is physically or electronically integrated into a motor vehicle or a voice-operated global positioning or navigation system that is affixed to a motor vehicle.” It also makes an exception for using a hands-free device that allows the user to write, send or read a text message without the use of either hand except to activate, deactivate or initiate a feature or function. And, there are specific exemptions allowing a driver to communicate with an emergency response operator; a hospital, physician’s office or health clinic; a provider of ambulance services; a provider of firefighting services; or a law enforcement agency regarding an imminent emergency situation.
Keep in mind, before this law was passed, a driver could not be pulled over solely for texting while driving under the distracted driving laws. Now, however, texting while driving is a primary offense and a driver can be pulled over just for texting while driving.
The bottom line is that even though this is a law “relating to texting while driving,” it is much broader. A driver in Oklahoma can now be pulled over and given a ticket of up to $100.00 for sending, receiving, or reading a text message, e-mail, picture, or even posting on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or other social media platforms. Remember, this ban only applies while the motor vehicle is in motion. So, if you just have to text someone or post what song is on the radio right now, do it quickly while you are sitting at a traffic light and you will not risk getting a $100.00 ticket to do so!