VAN BUREN, Ark. (KNWA) — A local lawmaker is looking to make texting and driving in a school zone a more serious offense.
It’s already against the law in Arkansas to use your cell phone while passing through a school zone during school hours when children are present and outside the building.
It’s only considered a secondary offense, but House Bill 1182 would make it a primary offense.
State Rep. Charlene Fite says it was inspired by a crossing guard from Prairie Grove who lost her daughter in a tragic accident involving a distracted driver.
“Being a crossing guard, she sees people everyday using cell phones in a school zone with children present in vehicles, and she’s very concerned about the dangers this poses to children,” Fite said.
It would allow police officers to stop or detain a driver just to make sure they were using a cellphone in a school zone for an emergency.
The penalty would stay the same as a $250 fine, but that could double if you’re caught a second time.
Fite adds, “We don’t want to add more laws, but the main thing is we are supposed to be doing is public safety — and this is a measure to keep all of our children more safe.”
When it comes to driving through a school zone, School Resource Officer Corp. George Edelen says distracted driving has always been an issue.
“Taking your eyes off the road, any split second, something can happen,” Edelen said.
That’s why Van Buren Police have extra patrol near schools in the morning and afternoon.
“We’ve had instances out here before where students have been hit crossing the crosswalk, and that was before cell phones came out,” Edelen said.
The bill goes before the Transportation Committee on Thursday, January 31.