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Increased enforcement of city cell phone ban

Amarillo, TX - Getting away with texting and driving may become a bit more difficult for Amarillo residents.

The city of Amarillo received a $161,000 dollar grant for traffic enforcement.

This will pay for extra officers to patrol and focus on drivers using hand held cell phones.

Amarillo has received funding in the past to cut back on intoxicated driving, speeding, and seat belt use, but Cpl. Jerry Neufeld says this is the first time hand held cell phones are on the list.

"It is still against the law today for someone to drive using a cell phone. If a field officer were to see that, he could make that traffic stop and issue someone a citation. This is for those additional officers that we are able to put out on the streets that are able to do other traffic enforcement including the cell phone violation," said Neufeld.

Neufeld says increased enforcement of the cell phone ordinance was added to the list because of a push from the public.

"So a lot of it is public pressure, the public wanting the enforcement to be done. They have at least in their mind been ran off the road by someone who was on a phone or something like that" said Neufeld.

However, local civil rights attorney, Jeff Blackburn, says increased enforcement is not good for the community.

"It is going to give police an excuse to search through people's cars, to pull them over and say, oh I smell alcohol, you are going to the station with me, oh you are going to lose your drivers license. So at the end of it we are going to clip you for thousands of dollars in fines. Ultimately it is a money making racket," said Blackburn.

The APD says increased enforcement is all about safety.

"You are driving a 2 thousand pound weapon down the street. The phone call can wait, that text message can wait, an email, a text message, you are really playing roulette. You may not hurt yourself, but you may hurt someone else," said Neufeld.

Increased enforcement of the use of a wireless cellular device while driving will not go into effect until October 1st.

If you're ticketed for using a handheld phone in the car, you'll face a fine of up to 200 dollars.

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