By: Sarah Snyder
Put down the cell phone and get ahold of the wheel. A new Texas law came just in time. To head back to school asking anyone traveling through a school zone to lay down the phone. And if you're caught chatting there's a hefty price to pay.
Only a few more days until those school zone lights start flashing and along with the new year comes a new state rule. The Texas Department of Safety will soon begin stopping drivers caught on their cell phones in a school zone.
"People are going to pay attention," Lt. Mark Rowden with Ector County ISD Police said. "They know when they approach a school zone, it will put them in a mode of watching between switching their concentration between driving and talking on the cell phone and watching for students."
District police say whether it's parents talking away in the carpool lines or students chatting on the phone on their way to lunch the distractions have resulted in too many accidents.
"We have quite a number of accidents because people aren't paying attention and we make a number of stops and we make a number of stops because of situations just like that because of unsafe driving caused by cell phones," Lt. Rowden said.
If you're caught on the phone between 7:15 and 8:30 in the morning and 2:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon, you'll get a fine. The first time it's $25 and the next time it shoots up to $50. Police say the only excuse is dialing 911.
"People will be paying attention to the road and not their cell phones and be texting or talking," Stacey Molyneaux, an Ector County ISD Mom, said. "That way some child won't be hit by accident, because someone was being careless in the car."
West Texas City Councils have to give the go-ahead to their engineering departments to make the "no cell phone" signs, then police can begin writing the tickets.
"If you're paying attention to what you're doing and you slow down for the kids, I think it's going to be a safer environment overall," Molyneaux said.
Odessa and Midland officials say it could be a few weeks before the signs are in place. Over in Andrews, they're not planning to put up signs in order to enforce the no cell policy. Police there tell NewsWest 9, there just aren't enough officers to have one stationed at every school.