By BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Published: 2/17/2012 2:26 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would ban cell phone use among drivers younger than 18 is headed to the Senate floor.
The Senate Public Safety Committee on Thursday passed the measure by a 6-2 vote. Sens. Steve Russell and Ralph Shortey, both Oklahoma City Republicans, voted against the measure.
[important]TRACK THE LEGISLATION HERE: http://newlsb.lsb.state.ok.us/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=SB182&Session=1200[/important]The measure’s author, Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said people in the targeted age group would be prohibited from using an electronic device while driving. He said the measure is aimed at ending texting while driving.
Russell said the ban eventually could be expanded to all age groups and that because of safety concerns, residents are giving up liberty to government control.
He also said that although he can appreciate the spirit in which the bill was proposed, current laws regarding distracted driving cover the issue.
Crain said the measure was requested by the state Department of Health and some teenagers.
He said newer drivers have less experience and are less mature than older drivers.
Crain said he was asked to alter the measure to cover all drivers but declined to do so.
“I wanted to start with our least-experienced drivers and encourage them,” he said. “They need to be paying full attention to the road and not be allowed a distraction like a cell phone to cause their attention to wander.”
Crain said driving is a privilege, not a right.
Mark Newman, director of state and federal policy for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, said the measure will help prevent deaths as a result of motor vehicle crashes or accidents, “which are the leading causes of death for teens under the age of 18 years of age.”