Understanding the legal consequences of distracted driving in Arkansas
Learn the laws and consequences of distracted driving in Arkansas, as well as tips to avoid distractions while on the road. By staying focused and adhering to local laws, you can contribute to safer roads in The Natural State.
Distracted driving is an epidemic, causing hundreds of thousands of car accidents every year in the United States.
Arkansas, like many states, has passed numerous laws designed to deter drivers from engaging in dangerous distracting behaviors while driving.
In this article, we’ll explore the concept of distracted driving, the laws surrounding distracted driving in Arkansas, and how distracted driving can impact a personal injury claim. We’ll also provide tips on how to avoid distracted driving and keep the roads safer for everyone.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving refers to any activity that takes a driver’s attention off the road, increasing the likelihood of an accident. These distractions can be categorized into three main types:
|Visual distractions||Manual distractions||Cognitive distractions|
|Visual distractions occur when drivers take their eyes off the road. Common examples of visual distractions include checking a text message or even looking at beautiful scenery.||Manual distractions occur when drivers take their hands off their steering wheel. Common examples of manual distractions include adjusting the radio or reaching for a snack.||Cognitive distractions occur when drivers take their minds off the task of driving. Common examples of cognitive distractions include daydreaming, engaging in deep conversation, or talking on the telephone.|
Distracted driving laws in Arkansas
In an attempt to reduce the prevalence of distracted driving accidents, Arkansas legislatures have enacted several laws targeting specific behaviors.
Here are the two primary distracted driving laws in Arkansas:
- Arkansas Code Annotated § 27-51-1504: This law (also known as “Paul’s Law”) prohibits drivers of all ages from using a wireless telephone for (1) texting, or (2) accessing, reading, or posting to a social media website. This law also prohibits drivers from composing, reading, or sending email messages. Fines for violating Paul’s Law range from $25 to $250 for a first offense and $50 to $500 for subsequent offenses.
- Arkansas Code Annotated § 27-51-1603-1604: This law prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using all wireless communications devices, whether they’re hands-free or not. Fines range from $25 to $250 for the first offense and $50 to $500 for subsequent offenses. Drivers who are between the ages of 18 and 21 are not permitted to use a wireless communication device to make a phone call but can use a hands-free device.
Although Arkansas does not currently have a statewide ban on handheld cellphone use for drivers over 21, some cities and municipalities have enacted their own local ordinances prohibiting handheld cellphone use, so it's important to be aware of the specific rules in your area.
In Arkansas, primary enforcement can be used for distracted driving. This means that a police officer can pull you over any time they see you violating a state distracted driving law, regardless of whether you have violated any other driving laws.
Distracted driving dangers and statistics in Arkansas
Every year in the United States, more than 3,000 people die as a result of distracted driving accidents. This accounts for between eight percent and nine percent of all fatal motor vehicle collisions in the United States.
Arkansas is actually one of the least dangerous states for distracted driving. In 2020, there were approximately 60,000 crashes and 19 fatal crashes caused by distracted driving in Arkansas.
|Arkansas distracted driving statistics (2020)|
|State||Total crashes caused by distracted driving||Fatal crashes caused by distracted driving||Total fatal crashes||Percent of fatal crashes due to distracted driving|
A study conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation found that while nearly 96 percent of drivers believed it was very or extremely dangerous to read a text or email while driving, four out of ten drivers admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days.
“Drivers give themselves a personal exemption to ignore the law while unfairly putting others at risk,” said Colonel Mike Hagar, Director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “State troopers and other law enforcement officers will increase enforcement of distracted driving laws as part of the ‘U Drive. U Text. U Pay.’ enforcement operation.”
How does distracted driving impact a personal injury claim?
Motor vehicle accident lawsuits are generally based on the legal concept of negligence.
In Arkansas, negligence is defined as “the failure to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to someone else on the road.”
If the plaintiff can prove that the defendant was using a cell phone (or engaging in some other distracting activity) when the accident occurred, they can generally establish negligence.
What’s more, if the defendant received a citation for violating one of Arkansas’ distracted driving laws, the defendant will be presumed negligent, and the defendant will have the burden of proving that they didn’t cause the accident. This is referred to as “negligence per se.”
Tips to avoid distracted driving
Here are seven tips to help Arkansas residents avoid distracted driving:
- Put away your phone: Whether it’s legal or not, a phone call is not worth your life. Consider putting your phone out of reach and turning on the “Do Not Disturb” feature while driving.
- Set up your GPS beforehand: Program your navigation system before you start your journey to avoid fiddling with it while driving. If you need to make adjustments, pull over before doing so.
- Limit passenger interactions: Engaging in conversations or attending to passengers can be distracting. Set ground rules for passengers, especially children, to minimize disruptions and maintain focus on the road.
- Manage food and drink: Refrain from eating or drinking while driving, as it requires you to take your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. If necessary, stop at a rest area or parking lot.
- Adjust controls before driving: Adjust mirrors, seats, climate control, and the radio before setting off to minimize distractions while in motion.
- Get organized: Keep necessary items within easy reach, such as sunglasses or toll money, to reduce the need to search for them while driving.
- Pull over for urgent matters: If you need to address an urgent issue or simply cannot wait to use your phone, find a safe place to pull over and park before doing so.
By following these tips and remaining vigilant, Arkansas residents can contribute to safer roads and reduce the risk of accidents caused by distracted driving.