The Amarillo City Commission adopted an ordinance in September banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving within the City limits. Understandably, many residents, as well as people who travel through Amarillo, have questions. This FAQ sheet will hopefully clear up most of your questions. If you don’t find an answer to your question here, please contact Sonja Gross, Community Relations Coordinator, at (806) 378-3549 or [email protected].
Where can I find a copy of Ordinance No. 7366 that was passed by Commissioners on Sept. 4, 2012?
The ordinance is listed in the City’s Municipal Code, and can be read in its entirety by following this link.
What does the ordinance ban?
The ordinance bans the use of a handheld cell phone while driving in the Amarillo city limits.
Does this ordinance apply to me?
This ordinance applies to any person operating a motor vehicle within the Amarillo city limits.
When does the ordinance go into effect?
The ordinance went into effect January 3, 2013. Police are currently issuing warnings to remind motorists of the new law and actual citations will be written starting February 2, 2013.
Can I use my phone while driving if I have a hands-free device?
Yes. Drivers in Amarillo’s city limits may use:
- A speakerphone feature
- A voice-activated feature or device
- A hands-free accessory device like a Bluetooth
A driver may press the button(s) necessary to use, activate or end these features or devices.
Can I still use my GPS?
The handheld cell phone ban does not apply to a GPS unit that is separate from a cell phone.
Can I use my phone if I’m parked?
Yes, if your car is lawfully parked, you may use your handheld cell phone. This does not mean while stopped in traffic at a red light or stop sign.
Are there exceptions to the rule?
Of course! A driver may use a handheld cell phone while driving as follows:
- To call for fire, police or ambulance in case of a bona fide emergency. That means there must be imminent danger to life or safety.
- To call a doctor, hospital or clinic.
- A government employee, first responder, or volunteer – but only while acting in official capacity with an immediate need to give or receive necessary official information.
- A HAM operator using his or her radio is exempted by federal law.
The best practice is to find a safe place to pull over to make or take a call or text or use a hands-free device.
Can I touch the phone to dial a number?
A driver may press the button(s) necessary to use/activate/end a phone call.
If I am issued a citation, will it appear on my insurance?
An offense is not considered a moving violation and may not be made a part of a person’s driving record or insurance record, unless otherwise required by law.
What is the fine for violating the ordinance?
A fine up to $200 plus court costs.
Isn’t there a petition circulating trying to repeal this ordinance?
Yes. The petition is sponsored by private citizens, not the City. A petition drive itself has no legal effect on the ordinance; it remains in effect until, or unless, it is repealed by the City Commission.
What happens if the petition gets enough signatures?
Approximately 3,900 signatures are needed by the first of February 2013. If that is accomplished, the petition will come to the City for verification of the signatures. If the petition is found to be legally sufficient, then the City Commission will decide whether to repeal or amend the ordinance, or not. If commissioners decide to leave the ordinance in place, there would be a public vote on the matter, according to the City’s charter.
What can my business do to encourage employees to not use a handheld cell phone while driving?
Employers can adopt a company-wide policy encouraging employees to not use a handheld cell phone while driving.
What can I do as a parent to help my children understand the importance of not using a handheld cell phone while driving?
www.distraction.gov and other websites serve as valuable resources for parents with the proper information on distracted driving.
Is there anything I can do as an educator to help emphasize to my students the dangers of using a handheld cell phone while driving?
Yes. www.distraction.gov offers helpful downloads including:
- Distracted Driving School Presentation
- Sample morning announcement
- Sample newspaper op/ed
- Distracted Driving fliers
- Sample letter from school officials to parents