Arkansas police to enforce anti-texting while driving initiative

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Arkansas State Police

The Arkansas State Police says they are teaming up with law enforcement agencies across the state for their annual “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign starting Oct. 17-23.

Starting this Sunday, motorists should expect Arkansas State Troopers, local police officers and sheriff’s deputies across the state to intensify patrol efforts to stop drivers who are distracted and fail to keep their eyes on the road.

The State Police says that one of the factors for distracted driving is the use of cell phones and electronic devices while drivers travel across state highways and local streets.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that since 2007 the number of drivers age 16-24 observed using handheld electronic devices while driving has continually increased compared to older drivers.  During 2018, eight percent of the people killed in teen driving crashes (ages 15-19) died when teen drivers were distracted at the time of the crash, and the following year (2019) 10% of the teenage drivers were distracted at the time of the crashes.

“The growing disregard of distracted driving laws isn’t limited just to teenagers,” Colonel Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative, said. “It’s frightening to realize many adults are now mimicking the dangerous distracted driving practices of their children and grandchildren which is taking a toll in the form of injuries and deaths on Arkansas roadways.”

The State Police’s initiative coincides with National Teen Driver Safety Week. Texting while driving is illegal in 47 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and teenage drivers need to be reminded of the dangers when using a phone while driving and that any use of a cell phone to text, talk or use social media applications raises the chances of someone being injured or killed.

“People know texting and driving is dangerous and illegal, but they selfishly do it anyway while putting others at risk,” said Colonel Bryant.  “We have to get the message out and beginning this weekend state troopers will be sending that message in the form of violator citations to anyone caught texting and driving.”

Here are some tips from the State Police on how to cut down on distracted driving:

•  Designate a passenger as a “designated texter.” Allow the passenger to access the driver’s phone.

•  Never engage in social media scrolling or posting messages while driving.

•  Cell phone use is habit-forming.  If a driver is struggling with safe practices, activate the cell phone “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put the phone out of reach from the driver such as in the trunk, glove box, or back seat.

For more information, visit www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov or contact the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at 501-618-8136.