Distracted driving results in hefty fines
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Behind the wheel of a big rig, Arthur Adkins has observed just about every possible form of distracted driving during his 37 years as a truck driver.
"We'll see people going down the road talking on one phone, texting on the other, putting makeup on, smoking a cigarette or eating and driving; all at the same time," Adkins said.
When State Trooper Chase Elkins works a wreck, he usually hears the same reasons for the cause.
"'I wasn't paying attention, I was trying to pick something up off the floor, I dropped something, I was trying to take a bite of my food, I was looking down at my phone or trying to change the radio station,'" Elkins said. "There's so many different excuses we hear and they usually come back to distracted driving."
In the state of Mississippi, being on the phone and driving is not against the law. But, texting and posting to social media while behind the wheel was banned two years ago.
The penalty for texting and driving carries a civil fine of $25 per violation.
Although 148 drivers statewide were cited for the violation 2016, Elkins says his department hasn't issued any tickets for it. He admits the law comes with complications.
"We're at eye level with most people," said Elkins. "If they have their phone down in their lap, there's no way that I can prove that they're looking at a cell phone."
But when Elkins sees someone driving with a phone in their hand, they have his attention.
"Distracted driving usually results in careless driving," said Elkins.
Careless or reckless driving is punishable with a fine up to $100 plus court costs.
"When those things take your mind, vision, or your hands off the wheel it usually causes you to change, cross over the lane lines or fog lines," noted Elkins. "Therefore we are able to cite for careless driving."
However for trucks the law discouraging distracted driving is more specific and the penalty more severe.
"As a truck driver there's a law, DOT regulations, that we cannot have the phone up to our ear," Adkins said. "That can be a $2,500 ticket to the company and here in Mississippi, I know it can be up to a $600 ticket to the driver."
Adkins says he takes every measure possible to avoid distracted driving not because of the law, but because of personal experiences.
"A lady driving a station wagon in the rain with kids in the back, she cuts me really short and if I would have been distracted before that happened, I probably wouldn't be here today," Adkins said. "Since I was paying attention and driving my truck when she cut me off, I didn't hit her and I saved the truck and I continued on to my destination."
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