Sorry to start on such a negative note, but there are about 60,000 car accidents every year in Arkansas. And most of these are simple distracted driving mistakes that are completely preventable.
That’s why arguably THE most important thing you can do behind the wheel is keep your hands at 10 and 2 and your eyes on the road. Always.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Simply put, distracted driving is any activity that takes a driver’s focus away from the primary task of driving. This includes anything from sending a text message to arguing with another passenger.
Not all distracted driving acts are illegal. You can legally adjust your radio stations or have an argument with another passenger while driving. Of course, just because it's legal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea.
The state of Arkansas is currently focused on reducing accidents caused by the distractions from cell phone usage.
Distracted Driving Statistics in Arkansas
You don’t have to follow the local news every night to know that distracted driving is a problem, but here are a few statistics that might help you understand just how serious it is in Arkansas:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 14% of fatal crashes and 8% of all crashes are caused by distracted driving.
This would mean that in Arkansas, approximately 4,800 accidents a year are due to distracted driving; and that
Distracted driving is the cause of about 60 traffic fatalities a year in this state.
The fine for distracted driving in Arkansas compared to surrounding states
Fines for violating the distracted driving laws in Arkansas are pretty significant, and it's just not worth the ticket. Save your texts for when the vehicle is not in motion.
Does Arkansas Have Laws against Distracted Driving?
Arkansas recently updated its texting-while-driving laws to expand the definition of texting to include any type of “wireless interactive communication.” This expands the prohibition to include emailing, playing games, looking things up on the Internet, and engaging in social media while driving.
Currently, the state of Arkansas prohibits:
Text messaging and wireless interactive communication
Handheld cell phone use in active school zones or highway work zones
The use of any cell phone, even hands-free, by drivers under 18
The use of handheld cell phones by drivers aged 18 to 20
The use of any type of cell phone by school bus drivers while driving
Are There Any Exceptions to the Distracted Driving Laws in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, the distracted driving law does not apply to:
Emergency services personnel communicating within the scope of their duties
When reporting illegal activity, summoning medical or other emergency assistance, or communicating in order to prevent injury to a person or property
Arkansas Distracted Driving Laws at a Glance
Is texting while driving legal?
Can you send/receive texts at a red light?
Is handheld device use permitted?
Any special restriction for young drivers?
Is headphone/headset use permitted?
*Except in active school zones
Is It Legal to Eat a Cheeseburger while Driving in Arkansas?
Yes. But that doesn't mean it's a good idea.
Distracted driving comes in many forms, and eating a cheeseburger can be just as distracting as talking on a handheld cell phone. Basically, anything that takes your attention away from the primary task of driving presents a potential hazard.
So, what happens if a police officer in Arkansas spots you eating a cheeseburger while driving down the highway? In most cases, nothing. There is no law that says you can't eat while driving in this state.
However, even legal distractions (like eating or fiddling with the radio) can significantly increase your risk of being in an accident or driving erratically, so it's better to avoid as many distractions as possible.
Unless you're really in a hurry, you’d probably be better off skipping the drive-thru or eating your cheeseburger in the parking lot.
What Is the Difference between Primary and Secondary Enforcement of Distracted Driving Laws?
Primary enforcement of distracted driving laws means that the police can pull you over if they see you violating state distracted driving laws.
Secondary enforcement of distracted driving laws means that the police can cite you for violating distracted driving laws only if you break another law while doing so.
Arkansas uses both primary and secondary enforcement.
In this state, you can only be pulled over for violating distracted driving laws if you have committed another moving violation while distracted. However, in active school zones, the state allows primary enforcement. So, if you send a text while waiting in the school pickup line, you can expect a citation and fine.
What Is the Penalty for Distracted Driving in Arkansas?
Penalties for violating Arkansas distracted driving laws include:
For texting, emailing, or using the Internet while driving: $250 for first offense, $500 for any further offenses
For use of a handheld cell phone in an active school zone: $250 for first offense, $500 for any further offenses
For use of a handheld cell phone by drivers aged 18-20: $50
For use of any kind of cell phone by drivers under 18: $50
Fines are doubled for violations that involve collisions.
Arkansas compared to the rest of the US on texting and driving restrictions
Every state in the US has a law that prohibits some sort of cell phone usage except Montana and Arizona. But in 2021, newly enacted cell phone restriction laws will go into effect in Arizona. You're next, Montana!
Does Distracted Driving in Arkansas Increase Insurance Rates?
A citation for distracted driving in Arkansas doesn't add points to your driving record, so your car insurance company might not be made aware of the violation. However, in most cases, citations are given as a result of secondary enforcement, so the violation that got you pulled over for may add points to your license.
Any time you engage in dangerous actions behind the wheel, you risk being in an accident or committing a moving violation that can increase your car insurance rates.
What If I Drive into Missouri or Mississippi?
You may be wondering about how the law affects you if you drive across the border into another state where laws may be different.
As the law currently stands, the neighboring states of Missouri and Mississippi have no restrictions for younger drivers. Does that mean that your teen driver can pull out their handheld cell phone and talk on the phone as soon as they cross over the border?
It does. But given what we know about distracted driving and driver safety, it is better if your child continues to restrict cell phone use while driving. Also, keep in mind that state laws are constantly being updated to reduce the number of distracted driving accidents, so be sure to review the laws of the states you will be driving through prior to taking a road trip.
What Is Arkansas Doing To Prevent Distracted Driving?
Arkansas lawmakers are committed to improving roadway safety. Recent enhancements to state laws are expected to cause a decrease in traffic accidents caused by distracted drivers.
Also, April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month in Arkansas. Law enforcement officers across the state participate in the “U Drive – U Text – You Pay” campaign. This national program combines an educational initiative with enhanced enforcement of state distracted driving laws.
So What Can You Do?
Quite simply, just put the phone away — even if that means in the glove compartment. The fines themselves are definitely not worth it, let alone the more serious consequences to you and others on the road. Let’s all just get where we’re going safely and save the texting and the Candy Crush games for our time at home.