The Amarillo Traffic Commission held a final public hearing on Sept. 4 regarding the potential ban for texting while driving.
Canyon approved an ordinance May 7 that went into effect Aug. 1. It is now a class C misdemeanor to text, use the internet, send an email or enter directions into a GPS application while driving. Since that time, the Canyon Police Department has written about six citations after giving warnings for the first thirty days.
According to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, distracted driving is the leading cause of crashes and near-crashes.
“The most common distraction for drivers is the use of cell phones,” the report stated.
The city of Amarillo already has laws in place against distracted driving. The police can issue citations for many reasons to those at fault in an accident and texting while driving is already covered by the ordinance.
The biggest issue with similar texting bans in other cities has been enforceability.
“If you read that ordinance, you (a police officer) must actually be able to testify that they (drivers) weren’t just pulling up their phone contacts,” said Lt. Craig Cannon of the Austin Police Highway Enforcement Command. “That’s not a violation. You actually have to see them texting.”
Dale Davis, the Chief of Police in Canyon, has gone out with some of his officers to try to identify violators.
“It’s definitely a hard law to enforce. The other day, we went out in an unmarked car, and we could identify the violations pretty easily there,” Davis said.
However, he said, it is still hard to prove. It is much easier for officers to enforce a complete cell phone ban, like those that already exist in school zones.
According to the public hearings in Amarillo, the public is divided on the issue.
“It split but it’s an emotional issue for the ones that are against it,” said Traffic Safety Committee member DJ Stubben. “It seems that somebody knows somebody who’s been hurt or injured by somebody who was texting. People are saying we’re trying to take our rights, but he doesn’t have a right to kill someone with a moving vehicle.”
The City Commission plans to take the first of two votes this week.