A CLOSER LOOK: NWA law enforcement on the lookout for texting while driving

A Closer Look
Texting and driving

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA) — The Fayetteville Police Department has handed out hundreds of citations for texting while driving.

Statute 27-51-1504, referred to as use of a wireless telecommunication device while driving, was enacted in Arkansas in 2017 and prohibits drivers from using their phone to text or access social media while driving.

Since then, Fayetteville police have caught plenty of people violating that law and not focusing on the road.

“A lot of times, you can be driving next to someone and see that they’re texting,” Sgt. Anthony Murphy with the Fayetteville Police Department said about motorists who officers find texting. “If their driving is horribly bad, either they’re texting or they’re intoxicated, usually.”

Texting while driving is a primary offense in Arkansas, meaning you can be pulled over if caught texting, Murphy said.

Fayetteville police issued 284 citations in 2017 for using a handheld wireless telephone while driving; 167 such citations were issued in 2018, according to Murphy.

Murphy said the drop in citations from 2017 to 2018 might have to do with “no texting while driving” campaigns having an effect on people.

Other local law enforcement agencies issued more citations for texting while driving in 2018 than in 2017. However, the number of citations issued by other NWA agencies were much lower than the number of citations issued in Fayetteville.

Rogers police issued four citations in 2017, 14 citations in 2018 and five so far in 2019, according to numbers provided by Keith Foster, public information officer for the Rogers Police Department.

Bentonville police issued only eights tickets for texting while driving through both 2017 and 2018, according to a Bentonville Police Department records department staff member.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies have issued 109 combined tickets and warnings for texting while driving since 2017, according to Kelly Cantrell, public information officer for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Benton County deputies wrote 13 citations in 2017, 15 in 2018 and 17 so far this year.

Texting while driving is a common occurrence and can result in “very serious personal injury” accidents, Murphy said.

“If it’s a temptation to you to look at your phone, then maybe you should put it in the glovebox or somewhere where it’s out of reach,” Murphy said.

Once pulled over, many drivers will admit that they had been texting, Murphy said.

Other states also have laws against texting or accessing social media on your phone while driving.

Oklahoma, in 2015, became the 46th state to ban texting while driving.

Oklahoma motorists are prohibited from texting and other forms of electronic communication, including takings photos and video and posting on social media, while driving, according to Carr & Carr Attorneys at Law.

Missouri and Montana are the only states in the nation without a full texting while driving ban. Missouri only prohibits motorists 21 years of age and under from texting while driving. Montana has no laws against texting while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association website.

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