Amarillo drivers will soon be required to go hands-free while on the phone while driving.
The commission meeting wrapped up around 4pm Tuesday. The ordinance banning hand-held cell phone use for drivers passed 4-1.
Commissioner Brian Eades said prior to the meeting he expected the ordinance to pass. He says this ordinance is important for the safety of Amarillo.
"We all see the problem don't we? We see people texting through green lights, we see people swerving through lanes, driving 70 while texting. And, I think that sometimes we have to protect ourselves from ourselves. And that what we intend to do tonight hopefully," Commission Eades says.
The ordinance prohibits use of a cell phone that takes the drivers hands off of the wheel, such as texting or emailing. However, hands-free devices can be used to initiate, answer, or end a call. If caught using your cell phone not hands free, you could face up to a $200 fine. The offense is not considered a moving violation, and will not show up on driving records.
There are defenses to the ordinance. Those include while the vehicle is lawfully parked; to communicate with an emergency response operator, fire department, law enforcement agency, or hospital regarding a bona fide emergency; when a person's life is in immediate danger; by a government employee or designated first responder while acting in official capacity and having an immediate need for hand-held communication; or by an operator who is licensed by the FCC while operating a radio frequency device other than a wireless device.
But there were mixed feelings on Tuesday's decision by the city commission. Many residents spoke out either for or against the ban.
"Well I would say frustrated because the commission is there to do what we want them to do, not what they want to do. And they should be flexible enough to change their minds after receiving input from the public," said Mike Fisher.
"I'm disappointed because I think they ignored just basic facts. The fact is that the number of accidents in Amarillo has steadily declined in the last 10 years," Trina Fournier, also against the ban says.
But, Mayor Harpole is pleased with the decision. He says it may be hard for residents to get used to at first, but the commissioners did take into account all input given.
The new ordinance is expected to go into effect within the next two months after signage is posted at city limits and throughout the city.