Arkansas law enforcement officers will join in a collective effort this month to crack down on violators who text while driving.
The statewide effort to curb texting while driving violations is part of a six day national initiative that begins April 10th.
The U Drive. U Text. U Pay. campaign is a twofold initiative that combines additional law enforcement patrols devoted to watching for drivers who are texting along with a national advertising and media outreach plan designed to inform the public about the stepped-up patrols and the driver’s responsibility to obey the law.
“Arkansas motorists need to know that we are serious about stopping the deadly behavior of texting while driving,” said Colonel Stan Witt, Director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “The practice has become far too common and strict enforcement of texting laws is one way to break what has turned into a bad habit.”
Arkansas law prohibits texting while driving, regardless of the driver’s age. It is also a “primary offense law” which means a police officer or sheriff’s deputy can initiate a traffic stop without observing any other violation. Fines can range as high as $100.
It is also illegal for drivers to use hand-held cell phones while traveling through school or highway work zones and it’s a violation for any driver under the age of 18 to use a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers 18-20 years using a cell phone are required to use a hands-free device. A violator fine can be $50 or doubled if the violation occurs in a highway work zone when workers are present.
According to statistics based on motor vehicle crashes that occurred during 2012, there were 3,328 people killed and 421,000 injured nationwide as the result of distracted driving. The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute reports that 25% of teenage drivers respond to a text message once or more every time they drive, and 20% of teens and 10% of parents admit that they have been part of extended multi-message text conversations while driving.
“When you text while driving you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off your primary task which is driving safely,” Colonel Witt said. “You put everyone’s life around you on the highway in danger, and no one has the right to do that.”
Arkansas law enforcement agencies are committed to the national initiative of “Toward Zero Deaths”. The participation by the Arkansas State Police and other Arkansas law enforcement agencies in U Drive. U Text. U Pay as well as Click It or Ticket and Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over represents a collective effort to significantly reduce the number of deaths each year on state highways, local roads and streets.
The U Drive.U Text. U Pay. campaign is a national initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to address incidents of distracted driving. For more information, visit www.distraction.gov or www.TZDarkansas.org or contact the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136.