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Oklahoma House to review texting, driving

Oklahoma House to review texting, driving



BY MICHAEL MCNUTT - The Oklahoman

Published: September 1, 2009

A woman whose mother was killed nearly a year ago in an Oklahoma City traffic accident in which the other driver was talking on a cell phone said Monday she will urge a House committee to ban all types of activity with a mobile device while driving.


Legislation should be passed to outlaw text messaging and conversations on cell phones while driving, including those with hands-free devices, Jennifer Smith said.

"I am against any cell phone use at all,” Smith said Monday. "It’s the conversation that’s taking the brain processes away from driving. So hands-free or not isn’t the problem, it’s the conversation that’s causing the problem in the brain.”

Smith’s mother, Linda Doyle, 61, was killed Sept. 3 when her sport utility vehicle was struck by a pickup at Northwest Expressway and Harvest Hills Road. The driver of the pickup was talking on a cell phone and pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, a misdemeanor.

"The driver that killed my mother didn’t get charged with anything that had to do with him being on the phone while driving,” Smith said. "It was checked on the accident report. ... He got charged with criminally negligent homicide because he ran a red light and he killed my mom.”

Democratic House leader Danny Morgan, who has been unable the past two years to get legislation heard that would address the dangers of cell phone use and texting while driving, said Monday an interim study on the issue is set for Oct. 8 at the state Capitol. Representatives from the cell phone industry, law enforcement and people affected by accidents involving cell phones have been invited to speak.

The study will be conducted by the House Public Safety Committee. The committee chairman, Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, and Morgan, D-Prague, requested the study.

"Do we want to just talk about text messaging in the first part of the bill and watch it for a year or two, or do we want to try to run something very comprehensive that would deal with cell phone use completely?” Morgan asked.

Morgan said he will again file legislation for the 2010 session. He also would like to ban text messaging by drivers of any moving vehicle, including buses and trains.

"It doesn’t look like the federal government is going to address it so I think it needs to be addressed at the state level,” he said. "I want the Legislature to make a statement to the people of Oklahoma that we understand there’s a problem and we’re willing to step up and try to bring a solution to it.”

Smith, of Grapevine, Texas, said she will return to Oklahoma City on Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death.

Smith, 35, said she has been working with the National Safety Council, which has encouraged governors and legislative leaders to adopt bans on cell phone use while driving.

The Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety officials, came out Sunday in support of efforts to ban text messaging by drivers, reversing its previous stand.

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