The Edmond Sun

April 4, 2014

An open letter to motorists in Oklahoma

Chuck Mai
Special to The Sun

OKLA. CITY — To the Editor:

The Oklahoma Legislature has once again given its blessing to texting and driving. By not passing one of the many bills filed this year that would have made the practice illegal, the Legislature is in effect saying, “Want to text and drive in Oklahoma? No problem.”

Although lawmakers have two more months left in the current session, texting ban bills have been given their last rites.

It’s tempting to name names, to single out those legislators who have blocked this vital legislation, but this letter isn’t about them, it’s about you.

Law or no law, Oklahoma motorists need to be aware of the tremendous risk they take when they pick up that cell phone while driving.

According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field.

With that in mind, former Chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Col. Kerry Pettingill says imagine you and another car face off toward each other from each end zone, driving 55 mph. But instead of 53 yards, the path you’re on is only 8 yards wide, the width of a standard two-lane highway. Oh, and one more thing — the other driver is blind-folded.

VTTI says their studies show text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. A mere 2-second glance away from the road doubles your crash risk

Worse yet, texting while driving is at epidemic levels. In 2012 in Oklahoma, distraction was a factor in more than 11,000 crashes. While you may limit distractions in your car, you’re sharing the road with lots of drivers who aren’t.

And as you’re traveling this summer, remember that 43 states now have laws banning texting behind the wheel.

It’s legal here but once you cross the state line, watch out.

There are things you can do to minimize your risk on the road. Putting down the phone is one of them. Spread the word.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Chuck Mai


CHUCK MAI is vice president of Public Affairs for AAA Oklahoma.