Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington wants to ensure drivers know about a new Louisiana law that went into effect Aug.1 banning the use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram while driving.

Anyone caught accessing social media while driving could be issued a ticket up to $175, with subsequent offenses costing up to $500. These are the same penalties in place for texting while driving.

“It’s not just about tickets and fines though, it’s about saving lives,” said Sheriff Whittington. According to the American Automobile Association, distracted driving contributes to more than 5,000 traffic fatalities each year.

Sheriff Whittington does not discount the fact that cell phones act as lifesaving tools in emergency situations. About 290,000 emergency calls are made every day from wireless devices. “But there is a time and a place for text messaging, and when you’re driving is not one of them,” advises Sheriff Whittington.

“As the use of cell phones continues to sky-rocket,” the Sheriff continued, “it’s best to recognize that certain safety factors can mean the difference between life and death in cell phone use when driving.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. Texting takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, the equivalent, at 55 mph, of driving the length of an entire football field blindfolded. You’re 23 times more likely to crash if you’re texting while driving.
Those statistics rang loud and clear for Louisiana’s lawmakers in 2008 when Louisiana became one of the first five states to ban texting and driving.

To make your driving and cell phone use experience a little safer, Sheriff Whittington offers the following safety tips:

  • Obey the law. Don’t text or use social media while you’re behind the wheel.
  • Before you get behind the wheel, get to know your phone’s features, such as speed dial and redial. Use a hands-free device when possible.
  • Assess the traffic, and dial sensibly. Ask your passenger to dial for you, or make calls when you are not moving.
  • Never read or write while the car is moving. If you must write a note or take down a phone number during a conversation, PULL OVER!
  • Be careful when pulling over to place calls. To avoid being a crime victim, don’t stop in dangerous areas. When stopped, keep your car doors locked.
  •  Position your phone within easy reach or let your voice mail answer rather than taking your eyes off the road to look for the phone.
  • Let the person you are speaking to know you are driving.
  • Do not engage in emotional conversations as you will be focused primarily on the call rather than your driving.
  •  Dial 911 to report an emergency - it’s free from your wireless phone.

The Sheriff reminds us to use our cell phone when valuable seconds count toward reducing emergency response time. Make sure 911 is programmed into your phone’s memory should you need to report an accident or other emergency. Dial 9-1-1 for emergencies and be prepared to give your exact location, nature of the emergency and your name and cell number including the area code.