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Law enforcement officials continue writing citations regardless of social media usage

VIDALIA — Whether talking, texting or tweeting, cell phone usage while driving equals a ticket in Louisiana.

Louisiana Act No. 62 expanded restrictions on cell phone usage while driving to include all forms of social media. It officially took effect on Aug. 1. The original restriction on cell phone use while driving became law in 2008.

One tweet costs $175 for a first offense. Getting pulled over multiple times while tweeting or posting a Facebook status may cost up to $500 per ticket.

No parish law enforcement agencies have issued tickets for social media use while driving since social media was added to the law, but Vidalia Assistant Police Chief Bruce Wiley said texting and posting to social media sites are too similar to worry about what a driver may be doing on his or her cell phone.

“Unless someone tells us they are on Facebook, there isn’t really a way to tell what they were doing,” Wiley said. “If you are looking at your phone, you’re not focused on driving.”

Texting and driving tickets vary in price, depending on which law enforcement agency issues the ticket.

A fine from the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office costs $346.50 for adults and $271.50 for minors. A ticket from the Ferriday Police Department is the cheapest in the parish — $159 for one ticket.

Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy David Hedrick said deputies pull drivers over after seeing cell phone use or based on driving patterns.

“There is a distinct way of driving, “ Hedrick said. “They might start to slowly drift one way until they cross the center line.”

Vidalia Police Officer Roger McDonald Jr. said he responded to an auto accident last year caused by cell phone use.

A driver, sending a text message, rear-ended another car in the incident, Mcdonald said.

“Honestly, I think it is much more dangerous than drinking,” McDonald said. “Either way, it’s distracted driving.”