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Trouble enforcing texting while driving law in Arkansas | Crime

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Trouble enforcing texting while driving law in Arkansas
Trouble enforcing texting while driving law in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - For years, we've seen public service announcements about texting while driving, but are people really getting the message? One student says, "I mean they're sad. You know, it's emotional. I just feel I've seen so many that you think it just won't happen."

THV11 News sat down with six teenage students at Sylvan High School in Sherwood, Arkansas. They admit, texting and driving is a big temptation for teenagers like themselves. "I don't do it all the time but sometimes I do text and drive and I admit that it is dangerous," Antonius Russell says.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 71 percent of teens and young people say they have sent text messages while driving and 78 percent of them have read a text message while driving.

"I've always been told don't text and drive or whatever but teenagers think they're invincible," Shelby Brown explains. This is part of the reason we wanted to see what exactly police officers are doing to enforce the law.

Little Rock Police Officer Don Williams says, "I've written probably three that I can think of." That is three warnings, not actual tickets. As Officer Williams explains, it is not hard to find people texting and driving. It is finding probable cause to pull them over that is proving to be harder than it may seem.

We drove around for nearly an hour and found no one violating the texting and driving law but Officer Williams says it's all about the time of day. The morning hours are when they normally find a lot of people violating the law especially in a school zone.

Officer Williams says, "If you don't have a warning already on your record, I have to write you a warning." But, if that same person gets pulled over a second time for texting and driving, he says, "Then I can write you a citation for it and the fine goes up to $100."

But getting caught a second time is very rare. This is why many Little Rock officers have turned to another statute to help enforce this law even more and get a better rate of convictions. Officer Williams says, "We're better off writing the careless prohibited charge on these vehicles because it's much easier to prove. I don't have to write you a warning I can go ahead and write you a ticket right then. The fine is the same."

Back at Sylvan Hills, these students know just how hard it is to be ticketed for texting and driving, which leads THV's Marlisa Goldsmith to ask one last question, "How are people still avoiding the law?" Justin Espejo answers saying, "You normally have your phone in your lap or you're holding it down low and people do that purposefully so people can't see through their windows and see them on the phone."

So is there anything that these students think can be done to stop people texting while driving?

"Honestly I think it's just inevitable because people will always still find a way around it," Kayla Smith says. That is one opinion, but others remain hopeful. "We can't change it in the blink of an eye. It has to change over time," Chase Imhoss adds. Hopefully that will come before it is too late.