No texting while driving in Ark, starting Thursday

Published 6:35 pm Monday, September 28, 2009

A law that goes into effect Thursday will prohibit Arkansas drivers from texting or sending e-mail from their handheld devices while driving.

The Legislature passed the ban during the last session, calling it “Paul’s Law,” after Paul Davidson of Jonesboro. The father of three was killed in a head-on crash with a driver who was allegedly typing a text message.

The law prohibits reading, writing and sending messages while driving.

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Rep. Ray Kidd, D-Jonesboro, sponsored the bill.

Unlike the state’s cell phone law, which allows persons 21 and older to talk on cell phones while driving (drivers 18-20 are allowed to only use hands-free devices; drivers 17 and younger cannot use cell phones while driving), Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said there are no exemptions under the texting law.

“It’s across the board no reading or sending,” Sadler said, adding that officers will enforce the law “if there is probable cause” and they are “able to articulate the probable cause for the stop.”

Garland County Sheriff Larry Sanders said the law could make the roads safer.

“If drivers obey it, there is no doubt that it will save lives,” he said.

State police data show “electronic communication devices” were deemed a cause of distraction in 1,336 wrecks from 2007-08.

Hot Springs Police Chief Bobby Southard said the law should discourage people from texting while behind the wheel.

“People need to use a little common sense and pay attention to the road. … I know (texting has) taken over people’s world,” Southard said.

Sadler said the penalty for offenses will be decided upon by the local courts.

Meanwhile, the state Highway and Transportation Department announced last week that it was making road conditions available through the microblogging service Twitter. Officials said motorists should check before getting behind the wheel.