NEWPORT — Continuing through Monday, Oct. 12, Arkansas law enforcement officers will join forces with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to participate in a high visibility enforcement effort directed at drivers violating distracted driving laws.
Arkansas has joined the national “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” operation formed to stop distracted driving. Police and sheriff’s departments have pledged the support of their officers and deputies to spread a unified message that distracted drivers are not only a danger to themselves but everyone operating a motor vehicle on Arkansas roadways.
Between 2012 and 2018, nearly 23,000 people died as the result of motor vehicle crashes attributed to distracted driving, according to NHTSA records. While there were 2,841 deaths from crashes caused by distracted driving during 2018, a 12 percent decrease from the previous year, law enforcement agency leaders say additional emphasis devoted to stopping violators is still needed.
Millennials and older Generation Z drivers have become the most egregious offenders of texting while driving. A comparison of NHTSA statistics indicates that since 2007, drivers 16-24 years of age have been using handheld electronic devices while operating a vehicle in greater numbers of instances than older drivers have.
During 2018, 8 percent of the people killed among teenage drivers (15-19 years old) were distracted at the time of the crashes.
“It’s inexcusable how common it has become to see people driving while looking at their phone,” said Col. Bill Bryant, director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “That’s why Arkansas motorists can expect to see an increase in law enforcement presence on streets and highways looking for distracted driving violators who will be stopped and issued a ticket.”
Many drivers are guilty of practicing a double standard when it comes to distracted driving. A 2018 American Automobile Association Traffic Safety Culture Index reported that nearly 96 percent of drivers believe it is very or extremely dangerous to read a text message or email while driving, yet, 4 out of 10 drivers admitted to doing it within the previous 30 days.
Commenting on the report, Bryant said, “People know that texting while driving is dangerous and illegal, yet without considering the consequences that could end in someone being injured or losing their life, they do it anyway.”
Arkansas law enforcement and NHTSA urge Arkansas motorists to lay their phones aside while driving and practice the following suggestions, ensuring everyone remains safe:
While driving, if you’re expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park the vehicle in a safe location. Once the vehicle is safely off the road and parked, it’s safe to text.
Ask your passenger to be a “designated texted.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls and messages.
Do not engage in social media scrolling, reading or messaging while driving.
Cell phone use is habit-forming. Activate your phones’ “Do Not Disturb” feature or place the phone in the trunk or an out of reach location until you reach your destination.
Texting while driving is dangerous and illegal. Break the cycle.
Remember: U Drive. U Text. You Pay. For more information on distracted driving, visit www.traffic safetymarketing.gov or contact the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at 501-618-8136.