On Sept. 1 of last year, a statewide law prohibiting drivers from reading, writing or sending texts on electronic devices began.
The law has been in effect for several months now, but the Carrollton Police Department is discovering the ban may not be as helpful as intended.
“The law is very difficult to enforce,” said Jolene DeVito, person of information for the Carrollton Police Department. “It allows for several exceptions. The actual texting and driving citation, we don’t write out that often.”
While the law restricted the use of using a cell phone to send and receive electronic messages, it did not prohibit drivers from using their phones to make calls or use a navigation system. DeVito said with the way the law is written, if officers see a driver holding and looking at their phone, they don’t have a way to prove the driver was actually texting and driving.
DeVito said many times Carrollton officers use other laws on the books to keep people safe on the road. For example, Texas law restricts drivers from using a cell phone for any purpose in a school zone. Officers can easily ticket drivers for this offense, which DeVito said the department does quite frequently.
As a matter of fact, 191 cell phone use in a school zone citations have been written since the Sept. 1 law began, compared to only six texting and driving citations, according to police.
While proving a person was texting and driving can be difficult, Devito said that doesn’t mean people can get away with using their cell phones while driving.
“We have plenty of ways we enforce texting and driving,” she said. “It’s not hard for us to ticket people for the behavior it creates.”
DeVito said straddling lanes, swerving in and out of lanes or following too closely are behaviors that indicate the driver could be using an electronic device. Officers can pull over and ticket a person on those offenses.
The department is active in encouraging residents not to text and drive by using things such as public awareness campaigns. High school SROs (school resource officers) also take the message of don’t text and drive to students in the local area.
“We’re certainly in favor of anything that keeps people safe on the road,” DeVito said. “We just have to use different laws on the books."