Arkansas is one of 19 states that prohibits texting while driving. As of Oct. 1, Act 181 of the 2009 Arkansas Congress has been enacted. It is now illegal to text message while driving a motor vehicle on an Arkansas road or highway, according to a press release from Arkansas Sen. Paul Miller.
"It's really hard to tell for sure," said Al Roork, Salem Chief of Police. "I get a lot of phone calls about reckless driving. I don't text. The cell phone itself is a distraction. I can't imagine being able to text and drive."
Fulton County Sheriff's Office receives many phone calls about bad drivers, Roork said. He expects that many of those calls are related to cell phone use while driving.
"It's causing some problem there is no doubt," he said. "It's going to be difficult to enforce. It's going to have to be pretty obvious."
The problem of distraction while driving related to texting has grown to epidemic proportions across the United States.
"State Police worked 787 traffic accidents where drivers had been distracted with wireless communication devices. Federal transportation officials say driver distraction is a factor in 16 percent of fatal crashes and is more prevalent in wrecks involving teenaged drivers," according to the release.
Act 197 of the 2009 Arkansas Congress prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone while driving, unless a head set or hands-free device is used, the release said.
"Just like most traffic laws, it is something that we have to observe in progress," said Lieutenant Mike Foster of Troop I State Police. "The officer has to observe you texting. We are not changing anything. As we see it, it is up to the officer's discretion what action he takes. If we have 100 percent compliance, we would think that the intention of the law is to reduce injury."
The application of the law is meant to protect the lives of all on the roadways, instead of merely prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving. The decision to make the law was carried out after the need for such restriction was evident.
"It happens. It's common. You really need to reduce distractions," Foster said. Charged with a new statute, "texting while driving" is a fineable violation. Each district court will be left to decide the amount of the fine for each offense, Foster said.