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Look around the next time you’re at a stop light. How many other drivers are “intexticated’ while waiting for the light to change? Distracted drivers have overtaken the nation’s streets and highways and it’s only become worse since the smart phone hit the market.

Many of us remember a time when returning a message meant you would wait until you arrived home to see that blinking light on the answering machine. In this modern age of texting and posting, here are 5 things to keep in mind before you respond to “sup?” while behind the wheel in Arkansas.

#1 It’s no longer a $100 citation

With the passage of Act 706, a first offense of texting while driving can result in a fine of $250 while a second offense is $500. If the texting results in a car collision the fine is doubled. This law (Paul’s Law) went into effect in 2017 and is designed to get your eyes off your phone and back on the road.

#2 Paul’s law doesn’t punish everyone

Certain people are exempt while conducting their duties including law enforcement officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers or other emergency medical professional. A doctor who is communicating with a hospital to provide emergency healthcare is also exempt.

Even for the rest of us, cell phone usage is not completely barred under Paul’s Law. Entering a phone number to dial or navigating using google map’s is likely ok. Judges are given a lot of discretion under the law. However, snapping a duck-lipped selfie from the driver’s seat will likely cost you.

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#3 You can be fined without even sending/posting a message

Under ACA § 17-51-1504, you don’t even have to hit the send button. The act of typing the text alone is enough. Granted, even law enforcement officers will admit that this law is very difficult to enforce. It’s hard to prove what a driver was doing while his eyes were in his lap. It’s much easier to cite someone with careless and prohibited driving as an alternative.

#4 It’s an addiction

Younger millennials have been raised on Smart technology and view their phones and social media as an extension of their selves. In a recent national poll, roughly 90% of young people believe texting while driving is extremely dangerous. Sadly, half of teens polled admit that they simply cannot resist the urge to check incoming messages while behind the wheel.

When you break it down scientifically, our brains release dopamine when we receive pleasurable information. This is a neurochemical in the brain which makes us feel happy. The release of dopamine is part of what leads to addictive cell phone behavior.

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#5 The future of texting while driving

Nearly every state now has some sort of law on the books making texting while driving a primary or secondary offense. At the time this blog was written, at least 14 states had gone so far as to prohibit the act of talking on the phone while driving. A recent study found that automobile fatalities for people aged 15-21 has decreased over 11% in states where texting while driving was a primary offense (meaning you can be pulled over for texting).

AT&T has taken steps to help by creating a free Drive Mode app. The app silences incoming message alerts and lets the sender know the recipient is driving when speeds of 15 mph are reached. Drivesafe.ly is another app which reads your texts and emails aloud to you. It also lets you respond through voice.

Another recent study shows that 63% of people are more worried about fellow drivers being distracted by their phones than being intoxicated by alcohol. However, the penalties for these violations are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Why not add license suspensions, mandatory driving classes, and install cell phone jamming devices into the vehicles of those found guilty of violating Paul’s Law? While a $250-500 fine may act as a deterrent for some, legislators could go a step further with a law already difficult to enforce.

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The Law Office of David L. Powell can help if you or a loved one has been charged with a traffic or criminal offense in the Fort Smith, Arkansas area. Call 479-785-0123 to schedule a free consultation.

This blog is for educational purposes as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. In reading this blog you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the author. Use this information at your own risk as this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. 

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