New Laws Penalizes Distracted Driving, Allow Higher Speeds
Distracted Arkansas drivers face new fines thanks to a new law that went into effect July 31, 2017.
Act 706, also known as Paul’s Law, states drivers caught by police texting and driving will be fined $250 for their first offense. If that offense causes a crash or accident the fine doubles to $500.
Little Rock CBS affiliate THV-11’s Rolly Hoyt reported lawmakers wanted to update driving laws to catch up with technological changes, as well as texting and social media’s ever present allure.
“We all think that we can look at a text and drive or look at our Facebook page and drive,” said State Senator Will Bond (D-Little Rock), who sponsored the bill this past legislative session that became Act 706. “In reality we can’t. It’s very very dangerous.”
Hoyt wrote that laws against texting and driving already existed, but were unclear on what phone activities were off-limits while driving. The new law allows a driver to dial a phone, but specifically points out texting or social media posting while driving is illegal.
“A driver of a motor vehicle shall not operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communication device to write, send, or read a text-based communication; or access, read, or post to a social networking site,” Act 706’s text reads.
The act carves out exemptions for those using their wireless device to use their GPS, report illegal activity, summon emergency assistance, and “prevent injury to a person or property” or while performing officials duties as a first responder.
Sen. Bond said the high penalty will hopefully draw attention to Arkansas’s distracted driving problem, and hopefully dissuade drivers from texting and driving.
“There’s actually a lot of leeway and that was intentionally put in there by the legislature to give the judges more leeway, but also to stress this is a serious offense,” he said.
Act 706 was one of several laws going into effect the same day, including one authorizing speed limits reaching 75 miles per hour. Act 1097 authorized the new limits though state engineers haven’t yet determined where the faster limits will be.
A local Fox News report states engineers are still studying road designs and traffic patterns, finding where they can increase speed limits without causing undue danger.
“We have to take each of the highways individually, take into account the terrain, the volume of tractor-trailer traffic … the population through which the highway is running, rural vs. non-rural,” said Arkansas Department of Transportation spokesman Danny Straessle. “We know folks exceed the speed limit, so what are people really going to drive? If you get over 85 (mph) on some of these highways, that’s really not a good idea.”