Thursday, October 15, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Oct. 9-15, 2009

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everybody! Discussions continue at the State Capitol and around Oklahoma on issues the Legislature will consider next session, which is now less than four months away.

Over the past several years, many proposals were introduced that would have restricted use of mobile phones by individuals driving cars. None of those proposed restrictions ever got much traction in the Legislature.

Last week, a legislative committee looked at the issue. There was compelling testimony before the committee on the harm done by those districted by mobile phone use while driving.

One of the witnesses testified how a driver talking on a mobile phone caused an accident that took the life of her mother. That witness called on the Legislature to pass a law banning the use of any mobile phone while driving.

Such a far-reaching law is unlikely to pass. Mobile phone use has become part of our everyday lives. The ability to make phone calls while traveling has been an enormous time-saver for everyone from business owners to parents keeping up with family members.

Testimony from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office reported no evidence that talking on mobile phones is more of a driving distraction that having a conversation with someone in your vehicle. However, as mobile phones have become more sophisticated, more features on them could district drivers.

Sending text messages or emails while driving appears to most trouble highway safety advocates. In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety launched a national campaign to pass a law in all 50 states to ban text messaging while driving.

Recently, such a ban has gone into effect in our neighboring state of Arkansas. AAA Oklahoma has announced it will seek passage of the same ban in our state.

We have seen some cities ban use of mobile phones in school zones. The idea is to ensure that drivers focus on their environment – which could include small children – rather than their conversations.

The other side of the argument is that laws against inattentive driving are already on the books. Those laws, some say, are enough to punish those not giving proper attention to driving – whether they are changing radio stations or using mobile phones.

Clearly, this subject will be before lawmakers when we return to the Capitol in February. There will be a range of proposals before us: banning the use of cell phones while driving; requiring the use of a “hands-free” device for drivers using mobile phones; banning the practice of sending text messages or emails while driving.

This issue will get more attention next year than ever before, and I would like to hear comments and concerns from those I serve. You can send me a message through my website at You can also follow me on Twitter at or on Facebook at

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute.” Have a great week, and may God bless you all.

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