SA's 'hands-free' law leads to more than 1,600 citations so far

SAPD: Some drivers still not getting message about distracted driving

By Katrina Webber - Crime Fighters Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio's ordinance that bans drivers from hands-on cellphone use while behind the wheel has resulted in more than 1,600 citations being issued to violators so far.

The law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, prohibits drivers from engaging in activities such as texting and playing games.

Initially, San Antonio police officers observed a grace period and handed out written warnings to violators.

According to SAPD, 1,439 drivers received one of those warnings between Jan. 1 and March 16. They were not required to pay a fine during January.

On Feb. 1, however, the grace period ended and officers began writing citations that carried fines of up to $200, police said.

Figures show that between then and March 16, officers had issued 1,609 citations.

"There's still a segment of the population that's not getting the hint," said Sgt. Javier Salazar, a spokesman for SAPD. "They're still not following the law, and that's fine. Our officers are out enforcing it.  Of course, we would much rather that (violators) get the point and stop doing it."

Salazar said when drivers ignore the "hands-free" law, they not only face hefty fines. They also could put others at risk for injury or even death, he said.

While the numbers show quite a few drivers have failed to obey the law, Salazar said he also regularly observes others who are complying.

"Kind of anecdotally speaking, I can tell you that from experience as I'm calling people throughout the day, throughout my dealings, I can tell you that a lot more people are letting their phones go to voicemail," he said.

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