In a post to her Facebook page, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin addressed the signing of House Bill 1965, which effectively makes it a crime to text while driving within the state. Known as the “Trooper Nicholas Dees and Keith Burch Act of 2015,” in honor of the troopers who were involved in a crash in January east of Shawnee in which a driver, allegedly updating social media while driving, hit the troopers, killing Dees and seriously injuring Burch—the bill represents legislation the governor hopes to see send a clear and immediate message to all Oklahomans.
“Today I signed HB 1965, banning texting and driving in the state of Oklahoma. The bill is named after Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch. Trooper Dees was killed in an accident involving a distracted driver, and Trooper Burch was seriously injured. It was an honor to have members of the Dees and Burch family join me today at the bill signing ceremony, as well as a large number of troopers and legislators. HB 1965 will help save lives and prevent unnecessary tragedies.”
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, texting while driving, along with engaging in apps such as Facebook or Twitter, increases the likelihood of a traffic incident by 23-fold.
The law makes texting while driving a primary offense, meaning police can pull anyone who does it over and give them a $100 ticket. This is an important distinction, as most states consider texting while driving a secondary offense, enforcement for which has, generally, no effect on driver behavior at all, even though Oklahoma is the 46th state to ban the activity.
The law goes into effect Nov. 1, 2015.