The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has announced that it will be cracking down on distracted driving in late January. During the safety blitz, troopers will be on the lookout for signs of inattentive driving and issue tickets to motorists seen using cellphones or other electronic devices while behind the wheel. The agency says that the effort is being made to prevent accidents and honor the memory of Trooper Nicholas Dees. A distracted driver struck and killed Trooper Dees in January 2015 during the course of an accident investigation. His death prompted legislators to pass a law banning the use of cellphones to send text messages while vehicles are in motion.
The accident that killed Trooper Dees and seriously injured another state trooper took place on Interstate 40 near Shawnee. The two troopers were standing beside their patrol vehicle when they were struck by a driver who was later convicted of manslaughter. During his trial, prosecutors introduced wireless service records revealing that he sent 69 text messages while driving on the day of the accident.
Distracted driving crackdown
According to the OHP, distracted drivers in the Sooner State caused more than 8,600 accidents and killed 41 people in 2019. During the distracted driving crackdown, troopers will step up their enforcement efforts and place fliers in roadside welcome areas. Electronic highway signs will also display messages reminding motorists to remain alert.
The kind of evidence prosecutors used in the trial of the driver convicted of killing Trooper Dees could also be introduced by experienced personal injury attorneys pursuing civil remedies on behalf of auto accident victims. Attorneys could use subpoenas to obtain cellphone records, and they may also seek to access the electronic information many modern cars now store on black box-type devices. This data could also be used to establish distraction if it reveals drivers took no evasive action in the moments before an accident.