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Texting and Driving: The Law in Oklahoma

Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, PLLC

Not long ago, people didn’t think too much about texting and driving. Not everyone had a cellphone, and texting wasn’t part of our daily lives. Now, we have an entire generation of adults who have known only a world with text messages. Texting and driving has become a huge safety concern, and it won’t take a long Google search to find tragic events resulting from it.

Texting while driving is illegal in Oklahoma. Those who are found guilty can receive penalties, and if they’ve hurt someone, they can face serious criminal charges. Criminal justice isn’t the only possible consequence. Texting drivers could also face charges in a civil court, and they may be asked to pay large sums of money to compensate for their actions.

Oklahoma Texting Law

In Oklahoma, it is illegal to compose, read, or send text messages while driving. By this law, the use of any text-based communication behind the wheel is prohibited. The wording of the law is purposely left broad to include almost any devices and be inclusion of emails or DMs to cover all possibilities.

In the early 2010s, two state troopers were killed by a distracted driver, prompting lawmakers to pass The Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act of 2015.

Exceptions

There are some text-based devices that can be used in cars:

  • Electronics that are integrated into the car, such as modern communication terminals
  • Navigation systems like a GPS that are fastened to the vehicle (meaning you shouldn’t be holding up your phone, looking at your GPS)
  • Hands-free devices that can text
  • IIDs (“ignitions interlock devices,” used by people who have been convicted of DUI crimes)

Texting laws do not apply in emergency situations, either, where you may be texting emergency services, law enforcement, etc. It is hard to imagine a situation where someone may be forced to text emergency services while driving, but the law wants to leave the option available just in case.

Penalties

For now, the penalties for drivers found texting are not high. It is considered an infraction, and it carries fines of up to $100. However, texting and driving has been elevated to a primary traffic offense. Traffic offenses typically come in two varieties: primary and secondary. Primary offenses demand that police stop your vehicle. If you are speeding or driving all over the road, police can and probably should pull you over.

Secondary violations, while they are a crime, don’t necessitate stopping a vehicle. For example, many states won’t pull you over for a broken taillight. These offenses are cited when police have already stopped you. For example, if you were pulled over for speeding, and you had a broken taillight, that’s when you would be charged. Secondary offenses typically come with citations and small fines.

Teens and Cellphones

According to state law, teens cannot use a cellphone while operating a vehicle, even to make phone calls.

Injuries and Death

If a texting driver’s actions lead to injury or death, they can be charged with more severe crimes. Depending on the severity of the injury, a distracted driving fine could be added. In the event of a death, the driver could be charged with a felony vehicular homicide.

Suing for a Texting and Driving Injury

Of course, justice doesn’t always come as a criminal charge. Texting and driving is a form of negligence, which can be handled in a civil courtroom. Criminal court handles just what it says, crimes. Someone has broken a law against society, and now society is going to hold them accountable. Guilty verdicts lead to jail or prison time, and fines are paid to the state.

A civil courtroom is for individuals seeking damages for another person’s negligence. Compensation comes in the form of money to cover medical bills, lost wages, loss of potential earnings, and pain and suffering. It’s important to know that you can sue a distracted driver regardless of their criminal verdict. Perhaps they were in a strange situation where they had an emergency and had to text services while driving. In the process, you were hit and injured. While the law may let them off without criminal charges, that doesn’t help recover the damage they caused to you.

Maybe the law found someone guilty of distracted driving and even sent them to jail. That doesn’t stop you from suing them to seek compensation for your damages. Remember, there have been high-profile cases where someone was found not guilty of a crime, but they were still found guilty in a civil court. If you’ve been injured by someone’s distracted negligence, call a lawyer today. If someone you love was killed by a negligent driver, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit.

Reach out today if a distracted, texting driver has brought you harm. We offer free consultations. Schedule with us online or call (918) 347-6456.

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