Austin Police Press Release
2021 U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY. CAMPAIGN
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 03/29/2021
CONTACT: Chief Anderson, 501-843-7856, https://www.austin-ar.com/contact-us
NHTSA and Law Enforcement Remind Drivers:
U Drive. U Text. U Pay.
Austin Arkansas — Austin Police Department will join law enforcement agencies nationwide April 5-12, 2021, to remind drivers about the dangers and consequences of texting and distracted driving. This annual campaign is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) national U Drive. U Text. U Pay. high-visibility enforcement effort.
According to NHTSA, between 2012 and 2019, 26,004 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver. While fatalities from motor-vehicle crashes decreased slightly from 2018, distraction-related fatalities increased by 10%. NHTSA also reported that the number of deaths linked to driver distraction was 3,142 nationwide, or almost 9% of all fatalities in 2019. This represents a 10% increase over the year 2018, or 284 more fatalities. The distraction figure was the largest increase in causes of traffic deaths reported for 2019.
Millennials and Gen 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 2019, 9% of people killed in teen (15-19) driving crashes died when the teen drivers were distracted at the time of the crash.
“We aren’t out here for the fun of it,” said Chief Rick Anderson. “Texting, messaging, and other forms of distracted driving are increasing habits that put everyone at risk, even those of us in law enforcement. We want drivers to focus on the most important task: hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”
Violating Arkansas’ distracted-driving laws can be costly.
2010 Arkansas Code 27-51-1504 - Use of a handheld wireless telephone when driving.
(1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this section, a driver of a motor vehicle shall not operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless telecommunications device to:
(A) Engage in texting; or
(B) Access, read, or post to a social networking site.
(2) A driver of a motor vehicle is not in violation of subdivision (a)(1) of this section if he or she reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in a wireless telecommunications device for the purpose of making a telephone call.
(b) A person is exempt from the requirements of this section if he or she is:
(1) Performing official duties as a certified law enforcement officer, firefighter, ambulance driver, or emergency medical technician;
(2) Operating a motor vehicle while using a wireless telecommunications device to:
(A) Report illegal activity;
(B) Summon medical or other emergency assistance; or
(C) Prevent injury to a person or property; or
(3) A physician or healthcare provider using a wireless telecommunications device for emergency medical purposes.
Arkansas Code 27-51-1506 provides the following penalties for Detracted Driving:
(1) A violation of this subchapter is punishable by a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00) nor more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) for the first offense.
(2) Each subsequent violation of this subchapter is punishable by a fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50.00) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500).
(1) If a person pleads guilty or nolo contendre to or the finder of fact determines that the person was involved in a collision or accident while in violation of this subchapter, a court shall in addition to any other sentence, assess an additional fine of double the amount of the standard fine imposed under subdivisions (a)(1) and (2) of this section.
(2) The law enforcement officer investigating the collision or accident shall indicate on the written accident form that the driver of the motor vehicle was using a wireless telecommunications device at the time of the collision or accident.
Many drivers are guilty of a “double standard” when it comes to distracted driving. In its 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index, the AAA Foundation reported that while nearly 96% of drivers believed it was very or extremely dangerous to read a text or email while driving, 4 out of 10 drivers admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days.
Drive Safe Every Trip
Austin Police Department and NHTSA urge drivers to put their phones away when behind the wheel. If you need to text, pull over and do not drive while doing so. If you are the driver, follow these steps for 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. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
- Ask your passenger to be your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond 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. No text or post is worth ruining someone’s day — or taking a life. Remember: U Drive. U Text. U Pay. For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov/campaign/distracted-driving.