5,000 citations issued for statewide texting ban, so far

A year ago, troopers started enforcing the statewide ban on texting. 

They've been busy. Between September 2017 and August 15th of this year, 5,442 traffic stops were made. 1,195 citations were issued along with 4,247 warnings.

Some of the stops also took part in school zones where all cellphone use is prohibited.

Truck driver Arturo Montelongo isn't surprised by the number of people who were caught. He sees them every day. "People cut me off, or slowing down, because they are looking at their phones, texting or on the phone calling somebody. Not paying attention, drift into my lane,” said Motelongo. 

The state law did not overturn local ordinances dealing with cell phone use. Austin has one of the strictest ordinances in the state. It’s a No Touch Rule.

Austin police have come up with some creative ways to enforce that ordinance.

Cops on a Bus was one of the recent enforcement initiatives. Officers on board had a vantage point to clearly see violations. In spring of 2018, almost 200 drivers were caught according to Sgt. Michael Barger. "If you can think of it, chances are we will try it. if it doesn't work we'll move on and try something else."

The traffic enforcement team has tried several initiatives this year.

90 citations were issued during the Cop on the Bus initiative along with 100 warnings.

Bike patrols, working downtown Austin, have so far issued 1,591 citations and almost 399 warnings. They have also used an unmarked SUV; netting 113 tickets and 155 warnings. Patrols across town, by the traffic enforcement team, have resulted in 224 citations and 52 warnings.

"So we are not being sneaky, we just know it’s dangerous for people to do that, and whatever means we can do to get that message out there, enforce that ordinance or state law, so people are not using their phone that's our objective,” said Sgt. Barger.

Those who are caught can get their tickets dismissed. Sgt. Barger told FOX 7 to do qualify for the dismissal, violators have to purchase a blue-tooth device and pay a reduced fine.

The traffic enforcement team is also working on another safety initiative. This one involves the requirement that drivers must slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle on the road and if possible moving into another lane.

So far this year more than a thousand tickets for not doing that have been issued.