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Law enforcement agencies across Arkansas are joining a national effort to stop texting while driving, Arkansas State Police said Monday.

The crackdown is part of a six-day national program that begins Thursday called "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." that combines officers watching for drivers who are texting with a national advertising and media campaign to inform the public about stepped-up patrols and a driver's responsibility to obey the law.

"The practice has become far too common and strict enforcement of texting laws is one way to break what has turned into a bad habit," State Police Col. Stan Witt said in a news release.

"When you text while driving you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off your primary task, which is driving safely," Witt said. "You put everyone's life around you on the highway in danger."

Arkansas law prohibits texting while driving and is a primary offense, meaning a law officer can make a traffic stop without seeing any other violation. Violators can be fined up to $100.

It is also illegal for drivers to use hand-held cellphones while traveling through school or highway work zones and it is a violation for drivers under the age of 18 to use a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers aged 18 to 20 using a cellphone are required to use a hands-free device.

A violator fine can be $50, or $100 if the violation is in a highway work zone when workers are present.

The campaign is a national initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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  • Dontcallmenames
    April 7, 2014 at 4:39 p.m.

    Meanwhile homicides are up in our city this year. Great job on the priorities!

  • Oldearkie
    April 7, 2014 at 4:44 p.m.

    How are the police to see it happening if it is below the door window line? The fine is not severe enough: how about forfeiting the car? The same for DUI.

  • Jfish
    April 7, 2014 at 5:41 p.m.

    Why don't they use unmarked cars, they could write several hundred tickets per day? It is a problem that must be addressed.

  • JPinLR
    April 7, 2014 at 5:42 p.m.

    Considering that most of us don't engage in high-risk activities like buying drugs (where a lot of homicides come from), the average Arkansan is at much greater risk from someone texting and driving. I agree- there should be more enforcement and stiffer penalties. Texting is just as dangerous as driving drunk- but somehow more socially acceptable.

  • K5LJC
    April 8, 2014 at 3:41 a.m.

    Meanwhile, a local radio station has ended it's "Traffic on the 9's" campaign and transferred that information to twitter! What could go wrong? Will they be held responsible for the crashes caused by former listeners that are now staring at their phones instead of the road?