Text it up, Arkansas.
It's been nearly three years since lawmakers banned the practice of texting while driving, but enforcement is virtually non-existent.
According to the Arkansas Crime
Information Center, only 18 citations have been written statewide
since the texting ban went into effect on November 1, 2009.
Not 18 tickets in a single city. Not 18 by a single agency. Eighteen. Statewide.
Representative Ray Kidd, the lawmaker who sponsored the bill that eventually became known as Act 181, says that's unacceptable.
"It's a law that's being broken, and needs to be enforced. It's that simple," Kidd said.
Sgt. Brian Dedrick, spokesperson for the North Little Rock Police Department, says detectives believe texting is to blame for a crash that claimed the life of 23-year-old Sherwood man Joe Smith Tuesday night.
"It was an unfinished text that we found (on Smith's cell phone), that maybe indicated that he'd been texting while driving," Dedrick said.
Tire marks show where Smith's Chevy Cavalier went off Batesville Pike Tuesday night and into a tree. On Wednesday, passersby could still see where the car's impact stripped the bark from the tree's trunk; shattered glass was everywhere, and car's front bumper was lying against a chain link fence 30 feet away.
Dedrick says drivers are careful to conceal their phones when they see his cruiser, but it's a different story when he's in a marked car.
"It is unbelievable the amount of people that are on their phone- that are texting while driving," Dedrick said. "Every morning and every afternoon when I go home, it's an astronomical number of people that are doing this."
And the texting will continue, Kidd says, until the law is enforced.
"The officers seem to think if they write a ticket they won't be able to prove it in court. I tell the officers- it's not your job to prove anything," Kidd said. "If you see anybody you believe to be texting, it's your job to write the ticket and let the judge decide the rest. And that's where the problem's coming in."