Act 309, sponsored by Sen. J. Jeffress, is a law passed by the state senate and has yet to be approved by Gov. Mike Beebe.
The act is "an act to improve the safety of roads and highways in the state by addressing issues related to the licensing of youthful drivers; to amend the law regarding restricted driver's licenses, learner's licenses and intermediate licenses; and for other purposes," according to the senate bill.
If passed, this new law would ban all drivers under 18 from using a cell phone or other wireless communications device while driving unless there is an emergency.
This law would also place a curfew on these drivers. Drivers who are under 18 would not be allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. unless it is work, school or emergency related, or they are accompanied by a licensed driver who is 21 or older. This law would also restrict the number of unrelated minor passengers to one in a vehicle with a driver who is under 18.
According to the Arkansas House, "Supporters of the bill say such a law will save the lives of a dozen or more teenagers a year and prevent injuries to many more, while opponents said it would be a hardship to youths and families in rural areas. Arkansas is sixth in the nation in the rate of car-wreck fatalities involving youth under 18."
Passage of this new law could relieve parents from worrying about their teenager's driving at night and getting home late. It could also save lives.
If the law were to be approved by the governor, Salem Police Chief Albert Roork explained how it would be enforced. "If we conduct a traffic stop at night, not because the driver is under a certain age (but for other reasons), while doing the stop we discern that person is under age we'd have to do something there," Roork said.
Though Roork said he doubts the law will pass because current driving laws are already being enforced, he said, "It will save some lives."