The Texts Can Wait
by Savannah Strickland
Special to the Delta Digital News Service
JONESBORO — The Arkansas Legislature passed Paul’s Law to harshly punish those who text and drive because they are putting other drivers and passengers in danger.
Even though a year has passed, Lisa Strickland still reflects on a near-fatal accident back in November 2016. The 57-year-old Jonesboro native and employee at Joe’s Tire and Auto survived a head-on collision due to a woman typing out a text message to a friend.
Strickland traveled across the Windover overpass on a Sunday afternoon. She said she remembers seeing a woman coming towards her, clearly distracted. The car drove over the center line and hit Strickland head-on, knocking off her SUV’s rear tire, flipping and spinning her vehicle, and leaving her hanging upside down by her seat belt for 8 minutes.
Strickland purchased her vehicle just nine days before the accident. When police arrived on the scene, officers told Strickland the wreck would have killed her immediately had her vehicle been smaller.
Strickland said before the accident occurred, she used to text while driving. But now she keeps her phone zipped inside of her purse in her back seat. She stays more aware of her surroundings, and makes sure those driving around her are paying attention to the road and not their phone.
Hannah Aldridge, a 21-year-old Arkansas State University senior, drives for Uber. Her job affected her views on texting while driving.
“Before I was an Uber driver, I would text and drive,” Aldridge said, although noting she wouldn’t do it while baby-sitting. “I am very grateful to be driving with Uber because it taught me that texting and driving is not safe, and that getting a text sent to one of my friends can wait until I have arrived safely at my destination.”
Hailey Wright, a 19-year-old freshman from Paragould, has not been a a victim of a texting-and-driving accident. But she has heard horror stories from family members and friends who knew people who had been injured as a result from another driver texting while driving.
“I think texting and driving is extremely ridiculous,” she said. “There is no text worth endangering and possibly killing yourself and other people. Choosing to text and drive is choosing to put yourself and others at risk.”
Retired Arkansas State Police Lt. Robert Speer saw many driving accidents caused by a driver texting while driving.
“Once I was called to the scene of an accident because I was the closest officer,” he recalled. “Upon arrival, I learned that the car had crashed because the passenger had received a funny picture through text and was showing it to the driver of the vehicle, which caused the car to veer off the road and run head-on into a telephone pole.
“Neither passenger sustained injuries, but it taught them a lesson on the distractions that cellphones can cause when inside of a vehicle.”