- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma drivers could be pulled over and ticketed for texting while driving under a bill passed overwhelmingly Wednesday in the state Senate.

The Senate voted 38-6 for the bill, which now returns to the House for consideration.

The bill makes it illegal for a driver to use a mobile phone to “compose, send or read an electronic text message” while the vehicle is in motion. Violators face a fine of up to $100.

“We need a law that prohibits texting and driving,” said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Keith Barenberg, who watched debate on the bill from the Senate gallery. “I would say most law enforcement supports it.”

The Senate narrowly approved an amendment to make texting while driving a primary offense - meaning an officer can stop a motorist if they spot them using a mobile phone.

Sen. Ralph Shortey, who opposed the amendment and the bill, said he was concerned it would lead to more drivers holding their phones down to keep from being spotted by police.

“Just because we say: ‘Don’t text and drive’ doesn’t mean they’re going to stop doing it,” said Shortey, R-Oklahoma City. “The only thing that’s going to happen is people are going to do it more dangerously.”

The bill was named for two state troopers who were struck by a motorist who authorities say was distracted by his phone. Trooper Nicholas Dees was killed and Trooper Keith Burch seriously injured when they were struck while working an accident on Interstate 40 in January.

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Online:

House Bill 1965: http://bit.ly/1z8ADuO

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