Arlington Citizen-Journal

Texting-while-driving citations up in Arlington, police say

Driving and using a cellphone is the norm for many drivers, police say. There were 7,748 crashes in Tarrant County and 105,783 because of distracted driving in Texas in 2015
Driving and using a cellphone is the norm for many drivers, police say. There were 7,748 crashes in Tarrant County and 105,783 because of distracted driving in Texas in 2015 Getty Images/iStockphoto

Police have issued 95 citations under Arlington’s texing-while-driving ban this year, the highest number for any year since the ordinance took effect in September 2011.

It’s an effort to reduce distracted driving, one of the leading causes of crashes, said Sgt. VaNessa Harrison, a police spokeswoman. But enforcement is difficult because it relies primarily on an eyewitness or a driver admitting they were distracted by their phone or other device. Citations are usually issued during a crash investigation, she said.

“If law enforcement was able to truly determine the number of crashes due to distractions in vehicles, the numbers, I imagine, would be staggering,” Harrison said.

In Texas, 476 fatalities were caused by distracted driving last year, including 20 in Tarrant County, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Almost 7,750 crashes in Tarrant County last year were caused because of distracted driving; statewide, the figure was 105,783.

Arlington is one of about 100 Texas cities with some type of restriction on using a wireless device while driving, Harrison said. Others include Bedford, Grand Prairie, Hurst, Watauga and White Settlement in Tarrant County.

A widespread ban in Texas would reduce the number of distracted drivers, which in turn would reduce the number of crashes overall, Harrison said. As state lawmakers began filing bills this week for next year’s session of the Legislature, state Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, authored one that would make using a smartphone while driving a traffic violation statewide. It’s the fourth session in a row Craddick has filed such a bill.

“Distracted driving is an epidemic in Texas and we must pass a law to address this life-threatening habit,” Craddick said in a statement.

In Arlington, texting while driving results in a fine of up to $200. Doing so in a school zone can be costlier, but police say the 148 citations issued for that violation so far this year are on track to be the lowest number since that ordinance took effect in 2009.

“People should take a moment to stop and complete their calls or texts before proceeding so they can give full attention to the road and other drivers while driving,” Harrison said.

The ordinances

Improper use of wireless communication device while driving:

A wireless communication device is a text-messaging device or other electronic two-way communication device that is designed to receive and transmit voice communication, text or pictorial communication or both whether by internet or other electronic means.

As defined by city ordinance, a person commits an offense if the person uses a wireless communication device to send, read, or write a text message, view pictures or written text, whether transmitted by internet or other electronic means, engage in gaming or any other use of the device, besides dialing telephone numbers or talking to another person, while operating a moving motor vehicle.

Using wireless communication device in school zone:

According to Transportation Code, while operating a motor vehicle in a school crossing zone, the vehicle must be stopped or the wireless communication device must be used with a hands-free device.

A hands-free device means speaker phone capability or telephone attachment or other piece of equipment, regardless of whether permanently installed in the motor vehicle that allows use of wireless communication device without the use of either of the operator’s hands.

Rafael Sears: 817-390-7657, @searsrafael

The average number of citations issued for improper use of wireless communication device while driving in Arlington:

  • 2011 - 5 (Ordinance implemented September)
  • 2012 - 73 (average 6 citations per month)
  • 2013 - 62 (average 5 citations per month)
  • 2014 - 63 (average 5 citations per month)
  • 2015 - 56 (average 4.6 citations per month)
  • 2016 - 95 (average 8 citations per month)

Total 358

Using wireless communication device in school zone in Arlington:

  • 2009 - 21 citations (Law implemented in October)
  • 2010 - 341 (average 28 citations per month)
  • 2011 - 480 (average 40 citations per month)
  • 2012 - 401 (average 33 citations per month)
  • 2013 - 321 (average 27 citations per month)
  • 2014 - 299 (average 25 citations per month)
  • 2015 - 207(average 17 citations per month)
  • 2016 - 148 (average 12 citations per month)

Total 2,218​

Source: Arlington Police Department