To Avoid Tickets, It’s Time To Stop Texting
The signs are up, the police officers are trained, and now it’s official: If drivers text behind the wheel in West University Place, they will get a ticket and face fines of up to $500.
Through the end of this week, West U. sergeants are briefing patrol officers to make sure they understand the entire texting-while-driving ban. West U. Lt. Thad Olive said by this Sunday, officers will be on the look out for tell-tale signs: drivers holding their phones, pressing buttons, and focusing their attention on texting instead of driving.
“The purest reason for this ordinance is just to enhance drivers’ safety, everyone on the roadway,” Olive said. “Take that concentration you’re applying to that cell phone or PDA or whatever and apply it back where it’s supposed to be: driving that car.”
West U. Sergeant Allan Gomez, who briefed the officers he supervises on Wednesday, said it’s hard to say how many tickets officers will hand out.
“I’m sure there will be people out there somehow trying to avoid being spotted,” Gomez said. “To actually detect and be able to prove that they’re texting, that’s going to be up to the observations of each officer.”
That ambiguity may pose challenges with handing out tickets, and officials also expect some challenges when the city’s municipal court eventually begins prosecuting violators of the texting ban. It may be difficult to tell whether a driver was illegally texting or just dialed a phone number, which is still allowed, said City Manager Michael Ross.
He said one possible solution would be for the city’s prosecutor to request cell phone bills, which include records of the time each text was sent.
“You could say ‘I was not texting.’ On the other hand it could also show, look, here’s the texting going on in that exact moment in time,” Ross said.
The city spent about $70 for each “No Texting” sign, and installed 17 large signs and two smaller signs at the West U. border on major thoroughfares like Bissonnet Street, Rice Avenue, Buffalo Speedway and Weslayan Street.
Mayor Bob Kelly said he hopes it won’t take long before West U. residents understand the activity is illegal, and simply stop doing it instead of waiting to get a ticket.
“I think its pretty much common sense not to be texting while driving,” Kelly said. “I think what this law is going to do is heighten public awareness of it, and just make people think a little more.”