No texting-while-driving tickets have been written in the city of Lawrence — and just two in Douglas County — since the state’s ban took effect on Jan. 1.
Officials say the lack of tickets isn’t an indication that people have stopped texting. Rather, it points to the difficulty in enforcing the law.
Last year, the Kansas Legislature passed a law that prohibits drivers from using a “wireless device to write, send or read a written communication.” Along with texting, the law includes instant messages and e-mails.
Starting last July, law enforcement officers could begin to issue warnings for drivers caught texting. Six months later the law went into full effect. A violation comes with a $60 ticket and in Douglas County another $93.50 in court fines.
City of Lawrence prosecutor Jerry Little said it’s not surprising that no texting cases have come his way. Because officers have to show that a driver was texting and not answering the phone or dialing a number, Little said he could see how the law would be difficult to enforce.
“It’s an important law,” Little said. “But there are lots of other laws that are just as important that can be enforced more easily, such as speeding and stop sign violations.”
Lawrence Municipal Court records, which covers the jurisdiction of the Lawrence Police Department, show that no tickets were written in January for texting and driving. Douglas County District Court records, which cover the jurisdiction of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas Highway Patrol, showed two tickets have been written.
One of those tickets came after a one-vehicle rollover accident, Douglas County Sheriff Sgt. Steve Lewis said. The driver said he was texting, went off the road and then overcorrected. During the investigation, the driver admitted to texting, and officers wrote the ticket.
However, Lewis said catching people texting in the county can be hard because there isn’t the stop-and-go traffic that Lawrence has.
“It is pretty rare for us to sit there and be able to monitor and see someone texting, unless we happen to be cruising along next to them and observe that,” Lewis said.
As for the Lawrence Police Department, public information officer Sgt. Matt Sarna said he didn’t have an explanation as to why no tickets have been written.
Before the law went into full effect, Sarna noted in an e-mail that it could be difficult to tell if a person was texting or dialing a cell phone. But still, he thought that having a law would make drivers “think twice” about picking up the phone to send a message.