OKLAHOMA CITY -State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft today said his "anti-cell phone use and driving" bill will include a provision to protect Oklahoma children by prohibiting school bus drivers from using a cell while driving.
"People need to stop using cell phones and keep both hands on the wheel when driving, especially those who are carrying such precious cargo, our children," said Wesselhöft, R-Moore.
The Moore Republican plans to file legislation to create the Brittanie Montgomery Act-named after 19-year-old Honey Bee cheerleader Brittanie Montgomery who died in a car wreck while text messaging. The legislation will increase the punishment for cell-phone-using drivers who cause accidents and will prohibit all teenage drivers holding a learner's permit from using cell phone or any wireless device when driving.
"I wish no one would talk or text on cell phones and drive-they need to pay attention to the road. However, Wesselhoft's bill is the next best thing and I fully endorse it," said Gina Harris, mother of Brittanie Montgomery. "It is an honor that the bill is named in memory of my daughter. I only hope it can prevent a tragedy like Brittanie's from occurring."
Today, Wesselhöft said the bill will also completely prohibit public school bus drivers from using a cell phone use while driving except in the case of a verified emergency.
Under Wesselhöft's bill if an automobile accident can be attributed to cell-phone use, the penalty will be a mandatory $1,000 fine and 20 days in jail along with any other penalties for other crimes associated with the accident. Bus drivers caught using their phone while driving will face a mandatory $1,000 fine. Holders of learners permit using a cell phone will driving will face a mandatory $500 fine.
Wesselhöft noted that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that public school bus drivers be forbidden to use cell phone except in the case of an emergency. NTSB research has shown that the cognitive effects of conducting a conversation on a wireless telephone while driving can decrease situational awareness and reaction time.
NTSB also concluded that current state law is inadequate to protect young novice drivers from distractions that can lead to accidents.
"We are paying these individuals to drive and to drive safe," said Wesselhöft. "There is no need for them to make any phone calls until after the children have been delivered to school safely."
A research study by the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) showed drivers looked at the road less while dialing manually (just 40 percent of the time) than when using hands-free dialing (50 percent).