There are more than 70,000 car accidents every year in Oklahoma. And most of these are simple distracted driving mistakes that are completely preventable.
That’s why arguably the most important thing you can do behind the wheel is keep your hands at 10 and 2 and your eyes on the road. Always.
What Is Distracted Driving?
The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts your attention from safe driving, including: talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, and fiddling with the stereo.”
Most distractions are perfectly legal, but they can be extremely hazardous and drivers should be aware of the danger in order to avoid them at all costs.
Currently, Oklahoma state laws focus primarily on prohibiting text messaging while driving.
Distracted Driving Statistics in Oklahoma
You don’t have to follow the local news every night to know that distracted driving is a problem, but here are a few statistics that might help you understand just how serious it is in Oklahoma:
In 2015, Oklahoma became the 46th state to ban texting while driving.
In the year following the passage of Oklahoma’s texting ban, the state saw:
A 12% decrease in total crashes
A 22% decrease in injury-causing crashes
A 30% decrease in traffic fatalities
A 6% decrease in non-injury crashes
In 2018, 1,413 people were injured or killed in distracted driving accidents in Oklahoma.
Of these 1,413 accidents, 476 involved drivers under the age of 25.
Does Oklahoma Have Laws against Distracted Driving?
Oklahoma’s statewide distracted driving law prohibits:
Reading, writing, or sending text messages while the vehicle is in motion.
Posting to social media, checking email, and browsing the Internet while the vehicle is in motion.
All drivers are required to “devote their full time and attention to such driving.”
Drivers who have learner’s permits or intermediate licenses (teen) from using any handheld electronic device to talk or text while the car is in motion.
Texting and cellphone use for commercial and public transportation drivers.
The state law prohibits individual municipalities within the state from enacting ordinances that are more restrictive than the state law.
Oklahoma compared to the rest of the US on texting and driving restrictions
Every state in the US has a law that prohibits some sort of cell phone usage except Montana and Arizona; however, in 2021, Arizona will roll out new cell phone restriction laws, leaving Montana the last in line.
Are There Any Exceptions to Oklahoma's Distracted Driving Laws?
Oklahoma does make exceptions to its distracted driving laws, including:
Devices that are physically or electronically integrated into the vehicle
Voice-operated GPS and navigation systems that are affixed to the vehicle
Texting using hands-free voice-to-text technology (hands may be used only to activate or deactivate this feature or function)
Ignition interlock devices (IIDs)
Additionally, the state laws don't apply to teen or adult drivers who are using their devices to communicate with:
An emergency response operator
A hospital, physician’s office, or health clinic
A provider of ambulance services
A provider of firefighting services
A law-enforcement agency
Oklahoma Distracted Driving Laws at a Glance
Is texting while driving legal?
Can you send/receive texts at a red light?
Is handheld device use permitted?
Any special restriction for young drivers?
Is headphone/headset use permitted?
Is It Legal to Eat a Cheeseburger While Driving in Oklahoma?
Yes. And no.
Distracted driving comes in many forms, and eating a cheeseburger can be just as distracting as talking on a cell phone. Basically, anything that takes your attention away from the primary task of driving presents a potential hazard and should be avoided.
So, what happens if a police officer in Oklahoma sees you eating a Whopper while driving down the highway? Well, that depends.
There's no law that specifically says you can't eat while driving in this state. But Oklahoma does have a law that requires you to “devote your full time and attention” to driving.
This means that police officers can pull you over and write a citation for distracted driving at their discretion. This is most likely to happen if you're driving erratically.
If you must eat while driving, do so with extreme caution so that you don't risk getting into an accident or being cited for dangerous driving. Otherwise, you’re probably better off eating your cheeseburger indoors or in the parking lot.
What Is the Difference between Primary and Secondary Enforcement of Distracted Driving Laws?
Primary enforcement of distracted driving laws means the police can pull you over if they see you violating state distracted driving laws.
Secondary enforcement of distracted driving laws means the police can cite you for violating distracted driving laws only if you break another law while doing so.
Oklahoma uses primary enforcement.
This means that even if you're in total control of your vehicle while responding to a text message, and a police officer sees you, they can cite you for violating the state’s distracted driving laws.
What Is the Penalty for Distracted Driving in Oklahoma?
The penalties for a distracted driving citation are:
For adult drivers: a $100 fine and zero points added to their driving record.
For drivers under 18: A suspension or revocation of their driver’s license.
For commercial and public transportation drivers: a $500 fine and a misdemeanor.
How penalties in Oklahoma compare to those in neighboring states
But the price you’ll pay for that distracted driving violation doesn’t necessarily end there … which brings us to our next topic: insurance.
Does a Distracted Driving Citation Increase Insurance Rates?
In Oklahoma, a distracted driving citation doesn't add points against your driving record, so it's likely your car insurance company won't ever know about it.
But if the distracted driving violation is in conjunction with a moving violation or accident, you can definitely expect to see a rate increase.
The amount your rate increases depends on which insurance company you use and your overall driving history. In Oklahoma, when insurance rates go up after a distracted driving citation, it's usually about $291 a year.
Plus, if you have a safe driver discount, you can say goodbye to the lower rates that come with it. Distracted driving will almost certainly disqualify you from receiving this discount, and this can cause your rate increase to be even more painful.
What If I Drive into Another State?
Distracted driving laws vary by state, and if you drive into a neighboring state with different laws, you're required to follow their laws. Claiming ignorance of the law won't get you out of a citation.
Distracted driving laws are being updated all the time, so it's important that you stay informed and do your research before taking your next long car trip.
While none of the states bordering Oklahoma currently have statewide bans on handheld cell phones, several states are currently passing laws requiring the use of hands-free technology while driving.
What Is Oklahoma Doing To Prevent Distracted Driving?
Until November 2015, Oklahoma was one of the few remaining states that still allowed texting while driving. The new law has seen some positive results, though. And in its first year, the state saw a 12% reduction in crashes.
State lawmakers continue to monitor distracted driving in this state and will work toward additional laws to further reduce the number of accidents caused by this hazard.
At the time of this writing, a bill is being considered by the state House that would make it illegal to use a handheld cell phone in a school zone.
So What Can You Do?
Quite simply, just put the phone away — even if that means in the glove compartment. The fines themselves are definitely not worth it, let alone the more serious consequences to you and others on the road. Let’s all just get where we’re going safely and save the texting until you get home.