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Possible restrictions for drivers using cell phones

Lawton_You could face jail time and fines if you cause an accident while on your cell phone, at least that's what Oklahoma State Representative Paul Wesselhoft of Moore wants to see happen.  Wesselhoft's new bill would require a 20 day jail sentence and a $5,000 dollar fine for anyone who causes an accident while using their cell phone in any way. 

While the penalties are steep, Wesselhoft says they have to be in order to get results.  But, many drivers disagree.

"I think that is a little crazy myself, I mean, that's a bit excessive," Doyle Wise said.  "It's ridiculous, it's ridiculous," Jeanette Pilipauskas said. "Yeah, that'd be very excessive, very excessive [laughs]," Brent Gravel said.

But Rep. Wesselhoft says that's the point, to make sure people know how dangerous it can be.  "We've got to get serious with this," he said, "because there's a lot of deaths and accidents attributable to cell phone use in Oklahoma."

"How are they going to be able to prove that the cell phone caused the accident?" Pilipauskas said. "I would like to know how they are going to do that. I mean that's going to be interesting, a lawyer's going to eat that up."

And many drivers worry that if this law passes, there wouldn't be any forgiveness for emergency situations.  "What if my child calls from school and I have to pick them up?" Pilipauskas said.  "If I get an urgent call that my mom's in the hospital and I tap someone, I don't want to spend 20 days in jail on top of my mom being in the hospital or something," said Erik Mitchell.

But Wesselhoft says he is just assigning punishments to an already existing law. "The law is very clear that while we drive, we're supposed to have 100 percent of our attention driving that car," he said. "Well that can't be true if you're on the cell phone, and especially if you're text messaging.  But, we don't enforce it.  Why? Because we all like the cell phone.  It's modern technology, we're not able to give it up."

Several states require people use hands-free devices, like a Bluetooth headset, to talk on their phones while driving.  But, Wesselhoft says he can't impose that here in Oklahoma because the public isn't ready for it.

AAA reports last year, cell phone use contributed to 800 car accidents in Oklahoma.

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