ARLINGTON -- Arlington could join El Paso in adopting one of the strictest ordinances in the state that limits cellphone use behind the wheel.
Under Arlington's proposed ordinance, motorists could face a Class C misdemeanor citation if they are pulled over for texting, playing games, sending e-mails or talking on their hand-held cellphones while driving. The ban would not apply if drivers use their cellphones in a hands-free or voice-activated mode or in an emergency.
The Arlington City Council is set to discuss the proposal at its Tuesday afternoon work session, but the ordinance is not on the evening agenda for a vote.
"It is very easy to be distracted by your phone. You are literally taking your hands, your eyes, your mind off the road. All those components are necessary for a safe driving environment," said District 3 Councilman Robert Rivera, who is pushing for the new ordinance.
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Between May 2010 and May 2011, 824 of the 6,094 traffic wrecks reported in Arlington were caused by distracted drivers, according to city documents. Of those, 4 percent were linked to cellphones.
"Those are preventable accidents," Rivera said. "Ultimately what we are trying to do is create a safer city, an environment where the road is used for driving -- not gaming, texting and looking at videos and messing with the phone."
Arlington already bans the use of hand-held cellphones in active school zones. From June 2010 to June 2011, Arlington officers issued 518 citations for such violations.
Thirty states ban texting while driving, but Texas is not one of them. Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have banned texting while driving statewide. However, Austin and San Antonio have city ordinances that prohibit texting while driving.
El Paso adopted its strict ordinance in May 2010 and began enforcement after a one-month education campaign. While the number of violators has declined over the past year, "there hasn't been any significant difference on the number of collisions," El Paso police Detective Mike Baranyay said.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7693