Mother who lost son to texting, driving accident responds to proposed driving legislation

TULSA - An Oklahoma state representative has proposed a bill that would ban texting while driving and fine drivers for being caught in the act.

The measure, proposed by state Rep. Curtis McDaniel (D-Smithville), is the latest attempt at a total ban in the state.

Under McDaniel's proposal, texting would be prohibited while a vehicle is in motion but would exempt texts to emergency responders, medical providers, firefighters and police. The monetary penalty would not exceed $500.

"It is well-documented that texting and driving is as dangerous or more dangerous than driving under the influence, yet only DUIs are currently illegal. No one wants to see a death caused by distracted driving," he said.

Cheryl Nichols son died doing just that.

On July 19, 2010, her son, 23-year-old Dallas Hutchinson, was killed texting while driving on 9th street in Cushing.

When Nichols arrived at the scene of her son's death, she immediately pulled Dallas' cell phone records.

"I actually pulled his phone records when the highway patrolman got there. And you could tell," she said.

Nichols described seeing a text message conversation that ended at the time of the crash.

She called her son's death senseless.

"I wanted my car put on a flatbed trailer and parked in the middle of town and taken town to town because it was just senseless," she said.

The numbers, according to Danial Karnes, spokesman for AAA of Oklahoma, would back his and Nichols' feelings about implementing a new measure.

According to AAA's recent study, 90 percent of drivers said cell phone use is a threat to safety. Fifty-three percent also reported using their phones to text or email while driving.

"It's dangerous. It's just as dangerous as drinking and driving," Karnes said. "Everybody that we survey, everybody that we talk to says that it's dangerous, but those same people are the ones that are texting and driving."

Nichols said it's time the legislature started protecting drivers in Oklahoma.

"It's like you have to ask them, 'How many people have to die before they're going to stand up and do something about it.?' Or, 'How much money do we have to raise to get them to pay attention to us?'"

The bill will be debated when the legislature convenes Feb. 4.

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