The Amarillo Police Department received and increase to a current grant to increase officer patrol on distracted driving violations.
The department will get the grant of $161,000 from the National Highway Administration through the Texas Department of Transportation.
The new grant will allow the department to increase patrol solely for distracted violations including seatbelt, child restraint, speeding, and cell phone violations.
Amarillo Police Departmentâ??s Corporal Jerry Neufeld said drivers on cell phones is a complaint the department gets regularly.
â??We get numerous, numerous complaints. That's one of the things we hear from people. Why are we not doing more with this phone ordinance. Man Power. We don't have the field troops to go out there and just patrol because they're going from one call to the next,â?? Neufeld said.
Currently, the city of Amarillo has an ordinance in place that bans drivers to use cell phones unless they use a headset or a speaker. Neufeld said officers currently patrol for these violations while taking other calls during their shift. This would allow for officers to be paid over time to look only for these distracted driving violations.
TxDotâ??s traffic safety specialist Tracy Tellman said this isnâ??t just a problem for Amarillo. She said this is a state wide issue.
â??"40 percent of crashes in the state of Texas include distracted driving. Most prevalent is texting and driving,â?? Tellman said.
She said to get this grant, the city has to have a certain number of fatalities and injuries. TxDot will then look at those statistics and determine whether they have the funds to allow the grant. In this case, Amarillo made the cut for the increase.
â??"The city qualifies because there are fatalities and injuries,â?? Tellman said.
The city will also match the grant for other uses such as patrol car mileage.
â??Itâ??s not hard money, itâ??s money for mileage, money for court time, and money for indirect costs,â?? Tellman said.
Neufeld said officers will only be enforcing the law already in place. He said he hopes this will help drivers keep their hands off their phones, and on the wheel.
â??Weâ??re just trying to increase our effectiveness. Weâ??re getting out there and being seen in the public. If we can stop that many people from texting or driving while theyâ??re on the phone, then we accomplished out goal,â?? Neufeld said.
Right now, the fine for driving while on a cell phone is $200.The hours and locations of these patrol officer will vary. The grant and officer increase will go into effect on October 1st, 2014.