Lawmaker wants license suspended of drivers texting and driving

(KATV) Little Rock - An Arkansas lawmaker says a $100 fine for texting and driving is not a harsh enough penalty to deter drivers. In 2009, Arkansas passed a texting and driving law, but because the first offense is only a warning few drivers are fined for breaking the law.

State Representative David Fielding (D- Magnolia) wants to increase the penalty during the 2013 legislative session.

Rep. Fielding is from Magnolia and says during his long drives to and from Little Rock, he sees people texting and swerving. He says the only way people can get punished for being on their phone, is if they kill someone and there needs to be a middle ground.

Rep. Fielding and his team, made up of leaders with the Arkansas Highway Safety office, Arkansas Prosecuting Coordinators, Department of Revenue and the Chief of Highway Police detailed their bill to a joint meeting of the Senate Interim Committee on Transportation, Technology and Legislative Affairs and the House Interim Committee on Public Transportation.

Senator Eddie Joe Williams (R- Cabot) listened to the details and said, "I appreciate your work on this."

The draft calls for tough penalties on drivers pulled over for texting. The first offense would be a $200 fine with a 30-day license suspension. Second offense would increase to $300 with a 90 day driving suspension. On the third strike, the penalty would be $500 and driving privileges suspended for one year.

Like drinking and driving, Fielding says it won't stop everyone but, "Think twice before you pick up that phone."

He says there isn't a new cost associated with the bill passing. As for enforcing it, fielding says we can start out with unmarked car stings like some states do, "We know if a driver sees a marked car come behind they lower the phone down. If it's an unmarked car, you don't know who it is so there's ways we can do it. There are ways it can be done."

He continues, "If this bill can save just one life, just one life it is a good bill."

Although lawmakers started filing bills in November, Representative Fielding still wants input for possible changes. The 89th General Assembly starts January 14th.

David Foster told the committee that in 2010 there were 86 citations for texting and driving, 57 in 2011 and about 180 so far this year.

Rep. Fielding was joined by:

Bridget White, Administrator for the AR State Police Highway Safety Office

David Foster, Assistant Commissioner of Revenue for the Dept. of Revenue

John Snyder from the AR Prosecuting Coordinators office

Chief Ron Burks, AR Highway Police