On January 3, 2013 the city ordinance prohibiting the use of wireless communication devices while driving goes into effect.

The City of Amarillo’s Municipal ordinance 16-3-154(b) prohibiting the use of wireless communication devices while driving goes into effect on January 3, 2013.  Information about the law and answers to frequently asked questions can be found here:

http://www.amarillo.gov/index.php?page_id=2945

Beginning Thursday, Amarillo police officers will stop drivers violating the ordinance and issue warning citations as a reminder of the new law.   

A driver is prohibited from using a handheld cell phone (or other wireless communication device) for calls, texts, and other functions while driving a motor vehicle on a public street, highway, or alley. 

This prohibition does not apply to a driver who uses a speakerphone, voice-activated, or accessory hands-free device (such as Bluetooth©).  A driver may press the button(s) necessary to activate that feature to make a call or end the call.  The law doesn’t apply to a GPS unit that is separate from a cell phone. 

A driver can use a cell phone when he or she is lawfully parked.  Being parked doesn’t include being stopped at a traffic light or sign.  Drivers can legally call for police/fire/ambulance/medical personnel in an emergency that is an immediate threat to a person’s life or safety.  A government employee or first responder acting in an official capacity with an immediate need to provide or receive information may do so.  HAM radio operators are exempted under federal law.

According to information supplied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Institute for Highway Safety, drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into accidents serious enough to injure themselves or others.  The split second a driver takes to look at a text message may be the same split second the driver needed to stop to avoid colliding with another car that stops suddenly in front of him or her…or a child that unexpectedly crosses the street.   

Now, the use of the hand-held device can not only be dangerous but is illegal. The 30-day period in which officers will issue warnings ends February 2, 2013.  On that date, officers will begin issuing traffic citations that can result in a fine of up to $200 plus court costs.

If you’d like a an educational program about the new law and the dangers of distracted driving for your business, civic group or other organization, contact Sonja Gross, City of Amarillo Community Relations Coordinator, at (806) 378-3549 or sonja.gross@amarillo.gov

If you have any questions about the ordinance, you can also contact the Amarillo Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit at 378-4257. 

Remember, One Text or Call Could Wreck It All.

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