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      Amarillo Police to begin writing citations for cell phone ban

      Amarillo Police will begin issuing full citations for those who violate the city ordinance that prohibits the use of cell phones while driving.

      On Jan. 3, 2013 the ordinance went into effect, however since that time Amarillo Police have only given warnings to drivers caught using their cell phones and driving. As of Jan. 24, 2013, only 35 warnings were issued.

      On Saturday, Feb. 2, 3013, the grace period will end and violators can expect to receive citations with a fine up to $200 and court costs.

      In a news release city officials said the "One Text or Call Could Wreck It All" campaign is gaining momentum as Amarillo citizens begin to realize the importance of distraction free driving.

      "The feedback I've received from the community has been very positive and I've appreciated the opportunity to answer specific questions people have had relating to the ordinance," said Sonja Gross, community relations coordinator. "One of the common misconceptions I've been able to dispel is that private citizens cannot use their handheld cell phone at all, and that government employees are exempt."

      While government officials are exempt from the cell phone ban, they are only allowed to utilize cell phones for official business. Emergency responders and volunteers are allowed to use cell phones while acting on official capacity.

      Drivers can still use their phones to contact emergency workers in the event of an emergency.

      "The best solution is to use a hands-free feature or simply wait to make or take that call or text once you've reached your destination," Gross said.

      For more information about the ordinance, visit www.amarillo.gov and click on the campaign banner.