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Lawmaker wants stronger penalties for texting & driving

A legislator believes texting and driving is just as dangerous as drinking and driving and feels penalties for both should be similar.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - A legislator believes texting and driving is just as dangerous as drinking and driving and feels penalties for both should be similar.

Arkansas passed its prohibition against texting while driving in 2009.

Over several days earlier this year FOX16 cameras captured drivers ignoring state law, texting behind the wheel.

With a first offense only a warning, it accounts for why so few drivers have actually been ticketed or fined for breaking the law.

Representative David Fielding (D-Magnolia) told the Senate and House Committee on Transportation on Wednesday he's prepared to increase the penalties.

"If I got caught texting and my penalty was $2000 or up to 30 days in jail it might make me think before I open the phone to type "ok" or to take my eyes off the road to text," Fielding says.

Fielding says he’s not sure a hefty fine or jail time will get through the 2013 legislature, but he says he trusts data that indicate texting behind the wheel causes as many accidents as drinking.

"DWI started out with a small penalty but it increased now to a felony, so probably on the same line as a DWI offense," Fielding says.

The committee approved an interim study proposal by Fielding that calls for the transportation committee to ensure that law is an adequate deterrent to texting and driving.

He wants to propose strengthened penalties for texting and driving during the 2013 legislative session that begins in January.
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