ARLINGTON -- Checking e-mail, texting and playing online games could soon be costly for drivers in Arlington.
After a discussion Tuesday, most City Council members agreed to move forward with an ordinance that would make it a Class C misdemeanor for motorists to use cellphones for anything other than making phone calls.
The council could vote this month on the proposed ordinance, which is aimed at reducing collisions caused by distracted drivers.
"We all see it when we drive down the road. You see people driving with their knees while they are doing this," Councilman Robert Shepard said, pantomiming someone texting with both hands. "It's difficult for you to text and drive at the same time."
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Councilman Mel LeBlanc was the only member to oppose the texting ban publicly, saying it would be difficult for police to determine whether motorists were dialing a phone or sending a text message.
"If you ban texting, you've got to ban cellphones as far as I'm concerned," LeBlanc said. "I'm against it."
Assistant City Attorney Kathleen Weisskopf said police would have a better court case if the city had a total ban on motorists using hand-held cellphones instead of a partial ban. But Assistant Police Chief Will Johnson said the ordinance would give officers another tool, along with public education, to encourage motorists to pay better attention to the road.
"It's clearly evident that distracted driving leads to an increased risk of crashes, to an increased risk of fatalities," Johnson said.
Between May 2010 and May 2011, 824 of the 6,094 wrecks reported in Arlington were caused by distracted drivers, according to city documents. Four percent of the distraction-linked wrecks involved cellphones.
On Tuesday, the council decided not to adopt a stricter ordinance such as El Paso's, which bans drivers from using cellphones other than hands-free or voice-activated.
"To have a texting ban is a good start, and it's one the citizens of Arlington would support," said Councilman Robert Rivera, who previously supported a tougher ordinance more like El Paso's.
Arlington bans the use of hand-held cellphones in active school zones.