Arkansas Car Accident Laws Staff Profile Picture
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An analysis conducted by US insurance agents has identified Arkansas as the third-most car-dependent state in the country, after Alabama and Tennessee. Over 93% of workers commute by car, contributing to the state’s car dependency index. 

According to the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT), over 82,000 motor vehicle crashes were recorded in 2021, with around 0.7% or 633 of these incidents being fatal. Common vehicular incidents in the state involve rear-ends (28%) and single-vehicle mishaps (26%). Pulaski County — where the state’s capital and largest city, Little Rock, is located — logged more than 17,000 crashes in 2021, representing nearly a quarter of all incidents in the state. 

ARDOT has installed and maintained raised pavement markers, rumble strips, and median barriers in numerous roadways as part of its efforts to improve traffic safety. The organization also works with the state’s Department of Health, Highway State Police, and State Highway and Transportation Department to eliminate traffic fatalities as part of its Toward Zero Deaths program.

Numerous state regulations have been implemented to prevent injuries and property damage to drivers and commuters. These laws address various negligent or reckless behavior, such as:

Arkansas Speeding Laws

Over 5,400 speeding-related accidents happened in 2021, based on data from the ARDOT’s Crash Analytics Tool. AR Code § 27-51-201 prohibits anyone from operating a vehicle on a highway at a speed deemed imprudent and unreasonable, given the roadway’s existing and potential hazards. For instance, a person traveling 55 mph in daylight conditions is driving reasonably, but another person driving the same speed in icy conditions could violate the basic speeding law.  

Drivers must be aware that, except where indicated, the absolute speed limits in Arkansas are: 


miles per hour in school zones or near educational buildings unless these areas are adequately protected by steel fences


miles per hour for vehicles that exceed the legal limits of length, height, or width


miles per hour for vehicles that—despite a special permit—carry a gross load of 64,000 pounds, excluding the front axle


miles per hour in any urban district 


miles per hour for large trucks carrying one-and-one-half-ton capacity or more in other areas


miles per hour on controlled-access highways in urban areas

Penalties for Speeding Violations

Despite a 7.9% decrease in speed-related crashes from 2020 to 2021, the number of fatalities resulting from speeding remains significant in Arkansas, accounting for one-fifth of all vehicle-related fatalities in 2021. Law enforcement officers have been cracking down on unreasonably fast drivers to improve traffic safety through the “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine” campaign initiated in 2022.

The penalty for a speeding violation increases with each offense. A person ticketed for speeding is required to pay up to $100 in fines or, at most, ten days in prison. These consequences go up to $200 in fines and a maximum of 20 days in jail for a second offense within a year. In cases where the driver exceeds the speed limit by over 15 mph, they can be charged no more than $500 in fines and detained for up to 30 days in prison. The fines double if a person is caught in construction areas. 

Seat Belt Laws in Arkansas

Drivers and all front-seat passengers are required to buckle up, according to Arkansas’ regulations on seat belt use. Violators can be fined a maximum of $25. Although a citation for violating the state’s seat belt law will not add any points to a driver’s record, it will still appear in their driving history, affecting their insurance policy premiums the next time they renew. 

Under the Arkansas Child Passenger Protection Act, anyone driving with a child under 15 should secure the child through a restraint system compliant with federal safety standards. Those who violate the law may face a fine of between $25 and $100. 

To promote seat belt usage, Arkansas law enforcement has been intensifying efforts in capturing unbuckled drivers as part of the nationwide Click It or Ticket campaign by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

Distracted Driving Laws in Arkansas

Drivers are prohibited from texting and accessing social networking sites while operating their vehicles under Arkansas laws. Texting while driving has been banned since 2009 upon the passage of “Paul’s Law,” named in memory of a Jonesboro resident killed by a distracted motorist. The importance of this law cannot be overstated; the Arkansas State Police estimates that a driver traveling 55 mph while checking their phone for five seconds can already cover a distance of a football field. Besides using phones, people can be cited for distracted driving if they interact with items like other electronic devices and books.

Laws have been implemented to penalize distracted drivers for increased roadway safety. Arkansas law enforcement has designed the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign, a statewide, week-long program that intensifies efforts to curb distracted driving across the state.

Sanctions for Distracted Driving

Distracted driving offenders can face various penalties:

  • A driver faces a $250 fine for the first offense and $500 for the second offense for behavior like texting, writing emails, or using the internet while driving.

  • In active school zones, using handheld devices incurs a $250 fine for the first offense and $500 for the second offense.

  • These fines are doubled if the distracted driver contributed to an accident. 

Drivers cited for distracted driving while passing through a work zone with workers present will also be fined twice the usual amount. This regulation is part of the Slow Down, Phone Down campaign, a statewide initiative to decrease work zone-related crashes.

Exceptions to Distracted Driving Laws

  • Firefighters, emergency medical technicians, ambulance drivers, and law enforcement officers while performing their official duties. 

  • People summoning medical assistance.

  • Those that are reporting illegal activity.

  • Motorists using a device’s GPS features to navigate roadways. 

  • A healthcare provider or physician communicating with a hospital or clinic. 

  • Medical personnel providing emergency care. 

Laws Against Driving While Impaired

An Arkansas driver could be charged with DWI if they were found to be driving while affected by alcohol or other intoxicants, which can influence motor skills and judgment. Over 3,000 incidents of impaired-related vehicle crashes were recorded by ARDOT in 2021, with around 4.7% of cases involving a fatality.

Motorists convicted of DWI may face a fine of between $150 and $1,000 and at least 24 hours in prison for the first offense. Fines reach between $400 and $5,000, while jail time could reach up to 90 days for subsequent offenses. In some cases, however, a judge might sentence the defendant to community service; individuals who commit an offense for the first time must serve a minimum of 24 hours of community service. Those who violate the law for the second time must serve for no less than 30 days, and third-time offenders must complete at least 90 days.

Implied Consent in DWI Charges

Arkansas follows an implied consent rule wherein any motorist detained for suspicion of DWI is deemed to have consented to chemical testing. Refusing blood tests but consenting to saliva, urine, or breath checks is not punishable, but declining any test can serve as grounds for a license suspension that lasts anywhere from 180 days to three years.

Open Container Law

Drivers and passengers traveling with an open liquor or beer bottle in their car are in violation of AR Code § 5-71-218, better known as the open container law. Every occupant of the vehicle can face a maximum of $500 in fines and 30 days in jail. 

Arkansas Drowsy Driving Laws

Arkansas is one of only two states — the other being New Jersey — that criminalizes drowsy driving. Courts can convict an at-fault driver if evidence shows that they a) have not slept for 24 uninterrupted hours and b) have killed someone due to falling asleep at the wheel. 

Studies have shown that impairment from being awake for 20 consecutive hours is equivalent to having 0.08% blood alcohol content. Even mild sleep deprivation can double the risk of being involved in a vehicular crash, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Reporting Laws and Post-Accident Procedures

If you are involved in a car crash, you should seek medical attention immediately, even if you have sustained no visible injuries. Some conditions that are not immediately apparent but require immediate emergency care include internal bleeding and concussions.

Under AR Code § 27-53-103, you are required to exchange the following information with the affected party: Your name, your address, and the registration number of the vehicle you are driving. Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in the injury or death of an individual or property damage is a class D felony under Arkansas law. You could face a maximum of six years in jail, fines as much as $10,000, and the revocation of your driver’s license.

You should also contact law enforcement personnel and report the accident. Police officers will investigate the scene and write an official report about what caused the crash and who witnessed it.

You should notify your insurance company promptly, but it is highly advised that you retain the services of a car accident attorney first. Your lawyer can obtain further evidence to prove the at-fault party’s liability and help you recover a fair settlement that covers your current and future medical bills, as well as other damages. 

Arkansas Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements

Under AR Code § 27-22-104, each motor vehicle in operation should be covered by liability insurance. The minimum amounts that Arkansas drivers should carry are:

  • $25,000 for the injury or death of an individual caused by the driver.

  • $50,000 for the injury or death of more than one person. 

  • $25,000 for property damage. 

Motorists seeking auto insurance must be allowed to acquire coverage for bodily injury and property damage caused by uninsured or underinsured drivers. According to the United Services Automobile Association, Arkansas motorists typically pay an average of $166 monthly for car insurance. 

Arkansas’ Fault-Based System for Insurance Claims

Unlike in other states where motorists are compensated by their insurance company regardless of who is at fault, in Arkansas, drivers responsible for causing a car accident are liable for the victim’s vehicle damage, medical treatment, and lost income. Injured individuals can file claims with their insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance provider to obtain compensation for injuries. Victims may also press legal action against the liable driver in civil court. 

Arkansas joins Texas, Kentucky, Maryland, and Virginia on the list of states where insurers must offer personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, but drivers can ultimately reject the policy add-on. Motorists should also be allowed to purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage from auto insurance companies.

Arkansas Is a Modified Comparative Fault State

Arkansas maintains a 50% bar rule, wherein an accident victim found to be at fault for 50% or more in causing a crash will be barred from receiving injury-related compensation from liable parties. On the other hand, if the victim is determined to be 49%  or less at fault for an accident, they can obtain damages, albeit reduced depending on the percentage of their fault or neglect. 

For example, if a plaintiff is determined to be 20% responsible for an accident that resulted in $10,000 in damages, they would be eligible to recover $8,000 in compensation.

The Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits

The state’s statute of limitations provides three years for car accident victims looking to file civil lawsuits against at-fault parties. This includes families whose loved ones passed away in car crashes. The “clock” begins on the date of the accident. 

However, some factors could affect the timeframe of an Arkansas car accident lawsuit. For example, a motorist seeking to file a product liability claim is given four years to press lawsuits against manufacturers or sellers if the case involves a breach of warranty. If the victim is minor at the time of the accident, they have three years after reaching 18 — the age of maturity in Arkansas — to initiate a personal injury claim.

Average Settlement for Car Accident Lawsuits

On average, accident victims in Arkansas receive $39,090 in settlements for moderate injuries. Drivers who have sustained minor injuries could reasonably expect around $6,000 in payouts. In contrast, those with severe injuries might recover over $800,000 in damages from liable parties.

The final settlement amount depends on multiple factors:

  • The at-fault driver’s auto policy limits. Since Arkansas sets mandatory liability insurance coverage at a minimum of $25,000 per affected individual, the policy limit might not be enough to compensate for accidents involving multiple claimants.

  • Punitive damages. In some cases, courts might award additional damages to a car accident victim to send a message to the public about especially egregious conduct, like hurling large rocks at highway traffic. There is no cap on the punitive damages a car accident victim can receive, as the Arkansas Supreme Court declared such limits unconstitutional in 2011. 

  • Injury severity. Motorists that have sustained soft-tissue injuries in the back and neck tend to receive a lower payout for their medical expenses compared to drivers rendered paralyzed by the car crash. 

Legal Resources for Arkansas Car Accident Victims

Center for Arkansas Legal Services

Low-income Arkansans can obtain legal representation from the center, especially military veterans and CHI St. Vincent hospital patients. The organization has been working with clients since 1965 through its main office in Little Rock. Its partners include the Arkansas Bar Association and AmeriCorps.

Arkansas Driving License Study Guide

Published by the Arkansas State Police, this guide educates new drivers on the state’s numerous transportation laws, covering matters like seat belts, railroad crossing signs, and road hazards.

Arkansas Motor Vehicle Accident Report (SR-1)

This form is used to report accidents that resulted in property damage exceeding $1,000. The document is also utilized in cases involving the injury or death of a vehicle accident victim.

Arkansas Insurance Department

Since 1917, the department has been working to protect the interests of Arkansans by implementing market regulations and prosecuting insurance providers for fraud. State residents should call the Criminal Investigations Division at 866-660-0888 or file a complaint online here if they fall victim to fake insurance agents.

ARDOT’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan

The report highlights information like data trends and the initiatives that Arkansas authorities implement to decrease the number of vehicular accidents. It also details the state’s accomplishments, including the installation of enhanced pavement markings and the development of a crash analytics tool. 

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