The Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office is working with state and local law enforcement agencies to encourage drivers to put down their phones while driving.
Beginning Thursday and continuing through Monday, law enforcement agencies in Arkansas will participate in the “U Drive, You Text, You Pay” campaign, which includes both educational as well as enforcement operations designed to make streets and roads safe, according to a news release from the state police. The goal is to reduce traffic crashes caused by distracted driving associated with cellphone use while driving.
A report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that examined motor vehicle crashes that occurred during 2012-17 indicates nearly 20,000 people died in crashes involving distracted drivers. During calendar year 2017 there were 3,166 people killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, the release states.
Since 2007, according to NHTSA, drivers 16 to 24 have been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers. During 2017, 8% of people killed in teen (15-19) driving crashes died when teenage drivers were distracted at the time of each crash. The statistical analysis indicates female drivers are the most at risk for being involved in a fatal crash when distracted.
“While on the road, anyone can look out of their vehicle window and see drivers using their cellphones,” says Col. Bill Bryant, director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor's Highway Safety representative. “People know texting and driving is dangerous and illegal, but they do it anyway, and it puts others at risk.”
Troopers will be stopping violators and ticketing them if caught texting and driving.
Violating Arkansas’ distracted driving laws can be costly. Arkansas law prohibits the use of a hand-held cellphone for texting, typing, email or accessing the internet while driving, regardless of the driver's age. It is also a "primary offense" law, which means a state trooper, police officer or sheriff's deputy can initiate a traffic stop without observing any other violation. Fines can range from up to $250 for a first offense and up to $500 for any subsequent offense.
Arkansas law enforcement officers urge you to put your phone down when you get behind the wheel. If you need to text, then pull over and stop the vehicle.
If you’re driving, follow these steps for a safe driving experience:
• If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location before you attempt to text.
• Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
• Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving. Cellphone use can be habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Put cellphone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of the vehicle until you arrive at your destination.
For information on distracted driving issues, visit www.Distraction.gov, www.TrafficSafetyMarketing.gov or call the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136. For more on Arkansas’ ongoing Toward Zero Deaths campaign to eliminate preventable traffic fatalities, visit www.TZDarkansas.org.