Thursday, October 8, 2009

TOP STORY > >New law prohibits texting while driving

By Airman 1st Class Rochelle Clace
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Law enforcement is now able to ticket people who text and drive.

Arkansas Act 181, also known as “Paul’s Law,” prohibits drivers of motor vehicles from using handheld wireless telephones to engage in text messaging effective Oct. 1, said Master Sgt. Mark Evans, 19th Security Forces Squadron operations superintendent.

“It was named in honor of Paul Davidson of Jonesboro, Arkansas who was killed when his car was hit head on by a texting driver,” said Sergeant Evans.

The law’s purpose is to improve the safety of Arkansas roads for all drivers and passengers by preventing accidents caused by the distraction of text messaging.

“It’s designed to stop motorists of all ages from driving distractedly and dangerously by banning e-mailing or reading and writing text messages while behind the wheel,” said Sergeant Evans. “Arkansas is the 19th state to ban texting while driving and Little Rock Air Force Base enforces Arkansas traffic laws.”

The texting ban isn’t exclusive to privately owned vehicles; President Barack Obama issued an executive order Oct. 1, banning all federal employees from texting while driving government vehicles.

“The president’s order applies to all military and government employees and will especially help on military installations located in the 31 states where a text ban has yet to be imposed,” said Sergeant Evans.

“If a motorist is looking at their phone, it’s basically a violation,” said Sergeant Evans.

Another law taking effect Oct. 1 is that anyone under 18 can’t use a phone at all while driving and 18 – 20 year olds must use a hands-free device.

“I believe this is a step in the right direction,” said Rick Myers, 19th Airlift Wing ground safety manager. “This will give our younger drivers a mindset of practicing safer driving techniques which should reduce vehicle accidents caused by the distractive practices such as text messaging and cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle.”

According to Arkansas State Police, there were at least 787 crashes in Arkansas in 2008 involving drivers who were distracted by electronic communication devices.

“Bottom line, if you don’t have a hands-free device when you’re operating a motor vehicle on base, your cell phone is nothing more than a paper weight,” said Sergeant Evans.

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