LITTLE ROCK - It is now illegal to text message while driving a motor vehicle on Arkansas roads and highways.
The new law that prohibits driving while text messaging is Act 181 of 2009, which took effect on October 1.
Arkansas is now one of the nineteen states that prohibit all drivers from texting. Several other states prohibit teenaged drivers or bus drivers from texting while they're behind the wheel.
Last year the State Police worked 787 traffic accidents in which drivers were distracted by cell phones or other wireless communications devices. Federal transportation officials say driver distraction is a factor in 16 percent of fatal crashes, and is more prevalent in wrecks involving teenaged drivers.
Another law took effect on October 1 that affects teenaged drivers. It is Act 197 and it prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone while driving. Drivers who are 18, 19 or 20 years old can use a cell phone but must use a headset or some type of hands-free device.
Young drivers in violation of Act 197 will receive a warning for a first offense and a $50 fine for a second offense.
Arkansas law requires front seat passengers to wear a seat belt, and under Act 308 of 2009 the police can now stop a vehicle for the sole purpose of ticketing the driver for failure to buckle up.
It has been a long time since many of us took the driving test, and a lot has changed since we got our first driver's license. The State Police publish a study guide that not only is very helpful for passing the test but also as a refresher course with numerous safe driving tips. The State Police web page is at http://www.asp.state.ar.us/
To bring up the study guide, click on Driver Licensing and Examination and a separate page will appear that has study guides in English and Spanish, as well as study guides for commercial driver's license tests and school bus driver tests.
A common fault of adult drivers who have gained confidence is that they follow too closely to the car in front. The rule of thumb is for every 10 miles and hour of speed, allow at least a car length of space between your vehicle and the car in front. For example, if you're driving 60 m.p.h., you should be at least six car lengths behind the car in front of you.
The "two second rule" works at any speed. Locate a stationary object ahead of you, and start counting "one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two" when the rear end of the vehicle in front of you passes that object. You're following too closely if you pass the stationary object before you finish counting.
Allow even more space for motorcycles and for all vehicles in bad weather. Keep in mind that large trucks take a lot longer to brake to a stop than a car. A car going 55 m.p.h. can stop within 140 feet, about half the length of a football field. An 18-wheeler going the same speed needs 400 feet to stop. Don't linger beside a truck while passing it. There are blind spots behind and to the sides of trucks. Don't under-estimate the speed of approaching trucks. Because of their large size, it appears as if they're moving more slowly than they really are.