LAW ENFORCEMENT SENDS LIFESAVING REMINDER: U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY.
Distracted driving continues to be one of the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes along our nation’s roadways. The Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office (AHSO) is working with state and local law enforcement agencies to encourage drivers to put down their phones while driving as part of the statewide “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” high-visibility enforcement effort October 16 - 23. Arkansas law enforcement agencies will intensify their patrols aimed at drivers violating the Arkansas texting while driving law.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 32,657 people died in distraction-related crashes over the 10-year period from 2012 to 2021. A distraction-related crash is any traffic crash in which a driver was identified as distracted at the time of the crash. Research shows that Millennials and Generation Z are the most distracted drivers, often using their cell phones to talk, text, and scroll through social media while behind the wheel. In 2021, 15 to 34 years old were 61% of drivers distracted by cell phones in fatal crashes.
“Distracted driving is a leading cause of traffic crashes on our nation’s roads, and most of this distraction is attributed to texting while driving,” said Arkansas Public Safety Secretary Colonel Mike Hagar. “People know texting and driving is dangerous and often illegal, but they do it anyway, unneccesarily putting lives at risk. Beginning October 16th, drivers will see increased law enforcement efforts, as officers will be stopping and ticketing those caught texting and driving.”
During the upcoming enforcement period, parents are encouraged to discuss with their teenage children the subject of developing safe driving habits, including the practice of never sending or reading text messages or accessing social media while driving. National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 15 - 21 and parents should take the opportunity during the week to set a good example for their teenage children who are beginning to drive. When you get behind the wheel, make the smart choice to drive safely and put your phone away. Just because other people do it doesn’t mean texting and driving is “normal” behavior.
In addition to being unsafe, violating Arkansas’ distracted-driving laws can also be costly. Arkansas law prohibits the use of a hand-held cell phone for texting, typing, emailing 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 for distracted driving can range from up to $250 for a first offense and up to $500 for any subsequent offense.These fines can also be doubled if a crash results from a violation of this law. Arkansas state lawmakers passed a bill during the regular legislative session to enhance the existing penalties of the “Fewer Distractions Mean Safer Driving Act” A.C.A. § 27-51-1607. Violating this act can now result in additional penalties and can be classified as a Class A misdemeanor if serious physical injury or death result from a distraction-related crash.
Distracted driving has impacted the rise in fatalities of non-motorists as well, with pedestrians and bicyclists being increasingly affected. In 2021, there were 644 nonoccupants (pedestrians, pedalcyclists, and others) killed in distraction-related traffic crashes across the United States. For the same year in Arkansas, there were 79 pedestrian fatalities and 10 bicyclist fatalities, resulting in a total of 89 non-motorist fatalities. Distracted driving takes the driver’s attention away from the road and surroundings, instead focusing on the distraction. This is deadly for all road users, but especially pedestrians and bicyclists who are vulnerable to injuries and fatalities when distracted drivers aren’t aware of their presence.
The AHSO and NHTSA urge drivers to put their phones away when behind the wheel. Drivers are encouraged to follow these suggestions to ensure a safe driving experience:
If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your vehicle in a safe location. Only after you are off the roadway and stopped is it safe to text.
Ask your passenger to be a “designated texter.” Allow the passenger access to your phone for responding to calls or messages.
Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
Cell phone use is habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your destination.
Texting while driving is dangerous and illegal. If you see someone texting while driving, speak up. If friends text while driving, tell them to stop. Listen to your passengers: If they catch you texting while driving and tell you to put your phone away, put it down. Help break the dangerous habit of distracted driving. Remember: U Drive. U Text. U Pay.
For more information, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/campaign/distracted-driving or call the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136. Also learn more about Arkansas’ ongoing Toward Zero Deaths campaign to eliminate preventable traffic fatalities, visit www.TZDArkansas.org