New law: Put the phone down when driving

transportation concept - man using phone while driving the car

JONESBORO, Ark. – Starting Wednesday, July 24, 2019, almost all use of a cell phone while driving will be restricted by Act 738, with exceptions for making phone calls.

While previous legislation existed to prohibit texting while driving, the new act will expand that to include instant messaging and any action that would use wireless data. No longer does Facebook Messenger or Snapchat escape the definition of the law.

In other words, almost anything you are doing on your phone while driving is illegal except making or receiving phone calls.

The intention of the law seems to be to prohibit most use of the phone while someone is also driving. There are several exceptions. You’re still allowed to make phone calls and type in phone numbers to make those calls. Since a cell phone is considered a wireless communication device but a GPS system is specifically not, it may* mean you need to pull over if you plan to input an address on a navigation/GPS phone app – probably a safe choice, anyway. A specific exception exists for a GPS/navigation system (not a cell phone) which allows people to still input information or read details on a GPS system while driving.

Many also use their cell phone as a music player in their vehicle, such as with services like Spotify and Apple Music. Since streaming music would be using cellular data, the law might* make enjoying your favorite music while driving a restricted act. In theory, it might be great news for FM radio unless people go back to downloading songs on their device at home (think 2006).

The law is vague in some areas but one area that is clear is that stopping at a stop sign or a stop light does NOT allow you to begin texting or using the phone. Only pulling over to an area where your vehicle may “safely remain stationary” can you use your device without being considered as “operating a motor vehicle.”

*Much of these smaller details remain to be determined by individual departments. Each agency will converse with its legal counsel and publish guidelines on the matter on what they decide their officers will write citations for. NEA Report will effort to share those with you as we learn more.

Until then, it seems the best bet both legally and safety-wise is to avoid looking at your phone until you’re not driving. 

The new law will also limit phone use even more for younger drivers and in work/school zones:

Under the age of 18, drivers won’t be allowed to use a phone or a hands-free device at all. No calls (except for emergencies). Don’t even answer the phone.

Between 18 and 20, drivers will be allowed to use hands-free devices only. No physical use of the phone is allowed except for emergencies.

Drivers of all ages are NOT ALLOWED to use cell phones in construction zones when workers are present (except for emergencies).

Drivers of all ages are NOT ALLOWED to use cell phones in school zones during school hours (except for emergencies).

Fines on a first offense: $25-$250. The second offense: $50-$500. If you are involved in a crash, the fines are double – in addition to any other sentence.

To read the full law click here. 

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