Arkansas law enforcement officers are joining in a collective effort this month to crack down on violators who text while driving.
The statewide effort to curb texting while driving violations is part of a six day national initiative that began on April 10.
The "U Drive. U Text. U Pay Campaign" is a twofold initiative that combines additional law enforcement patrols devoted to watching for drivers who are texting along with a national advertising and media outreach plan designed to inform the public about the stepped-up patrols and the driver’s responsibility to obey the law.
"Arkansas motorists need to know that we are serious about stopping the deadly behavior of texting while driving," said Col. Stan Witt, Director of the Arkansas State Police.
Arkansas law prohibits texting while driving, regardless of the driver’s age. It is also a "primary offense law" which means a police officer or sheriff’s deputy can initiate a traffic stop without observing any other violation. Fines can range as high as $100.
It is also illegal for drivers to use hand-held cell phones while traveling through school or highway work zones and it’s a violation for any driver under the age of 18 to use a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers 18 to 20 years using a cell phone are required to use a hands-free device.
A violator fine can be $50 or doubled if the violation occurs in a highway work zone when workers are present.
According to statistics based on motor vehicle crashes that occurred during 2012, there were 3,328 people killed and 421,000 injured nationwide as the result of distracted driving.
Arkansas law enforcement agencies are committed to the national initiative of "Toward Zero Deaths."
The cities of North Little Rock, Sherwood and Jacksonville were united in their efforts this month in trying to curtail texting while driving.
"Driving and texting has reached epidemic levels, and enforcement of our state texting law is part of the cure." said Jacksonville Sgt. Richard Betterton.
North Little Rock Police Chief Mike Davis agreed.
"When you text while driving, you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the task of driving. That puts everyone else’s lives in danger, and no one has the right to do that," said Davis.
Lt. Jamie Michaels, a public information officer for the Sherwood Police Department, said her city was participating in the effort too this month.