Distracted driving continues to be one of the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes on our nation’s roadways. The Arkansas State Police Highway Safety Office (HSO) 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 April 3rd-10th.
The effort will involve Arkansas State Troopers, local sheriff’s deputies, and local police officers. The operation will target drivers who are texting and driving as well as violating other distracted driving laws.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA], between 2011 and 2020, more than 32,400 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver. In 2020, there were 3,142 deaths linked to driver distraction, or 8% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities. This is an increase of 23 fatalities compared to 2019.
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. According to NHTSA research from 2017, young drivers 16 to 24 years old have been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers since 2007. In 2020, 7% of drivers 15 to 20 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted.
“Distracted driving is a leading cause of motor vehicle crashes on our nation’s roads, and most of this distraction is attributed to texting while driving,” said Colonel Mike Hagar, Director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “People know texting and driving is dangerous and often illegal, but they do it anyway, and it puts others at risk. Beginning April 3rd, drivers will see increased law enforcement efforts, as officers will be stopping and ticketing anyone who is caught texting while driving. If you text and drive, you will pay.” 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 can range from up to $250 for a first offense and up to $500 for any subsequent offense.
Many drivers are guilty of a “double standard” when it comes to distracted driving. In its 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index, the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation reported that while nearly 96% of drivers believed it was very or extremely dangerous to read a text or email while driving, four out of ten drivers admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days.
“These drivers give themselves a personal exemption to ignore the law while unfairly putting others at risk,” said Colonel Hagar. “State troopers and other law enforcement officers will increase enforcement of distracted driving laws as part of the ‘U Drive. U Text. U Pay.’ enforcement operation.”
The Arkansas Highway Safety Office 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 car 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. 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.