Arkansas law enforcement agencies will unite in the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” initiative aimed at stopping the dangerous practice of distracted driving. Starting Sunday, Arkansas State Troopers, joined by local police officers and sheriff’s deputies across the state, will begin a week-long (October 17-23) intensified patrol effort to stop drivers who are distracted and fail to keep their eyes on the road.
One of the leading factors contributing to the epidemic of distracted driving is the simultaneous use of cell phones and other electronic devices to communicate while drivers travel across state highways and local streets. In recent years, young drivers have become the largest segment among distracted driving offenders, using their cell phones to talk, text, and scroll through social media while they’re supposed to be in control of their vehicle.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, since 2007 the number of drivers 16 to 24 years old observed using handheld electronic devices while driving has continually increased compared to older drivers. During 2018, 8 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 percent of the teenage drivers were distracted at the time of the crashes.
National Teen Driver Safety Week coincides with the planned distracted driving operation. Parents are encouraged to have conversations with their teenage children who are drivers about the important rules they need to follow to stay safe while operating a motor vehicle.
Texting while driving is illegal in 47 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 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. Even when stopped at a traffic light, distracted driving laws can and will be enforced by law enforcement officers. Additionally, young drivers should be told it’s not advisable to use headphones or earbuds while driving. All drivers need to be able to hear another vehicle’s horn or the siren from an emergency vehicle.
“The growing disregard of distracted driving laws isn’t limited just to teenagers,” said Colonel Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “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.”
Cell phones aren’t the only cause of distracted driving. A driver who takes their eyes off the road to speak to a passenger, adjust entertainment programming or temperature controls, even eating while driving are all examples of distracted driving.
“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.”
Arkansas law enforcement officers and the Highway Safety Office urge drivers of any age to put their phones away while behind the wheel and operating a vehicle. If a text message is necessary, safely exit the street or highway and find a location to stop and use the phone. Never try to read or send a text message while a vehicle is moving. Drivers are also asked to consider other safety precautions:
• 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.
Texting while driving is dangerous and illegal. Remember, U Drive. U Text. U Pay. For more information, visit www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov or contact the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136.