Midland police stepping up “no texting” enforcement

Midland police stepping up “no texting” enforcement

The texting and driving ban went into effect on October 1, 2015. Midland is the 41st city in Texas to implement some type of ban on texting and driving.

Mayor Morales with the city of Midland, said, "What prompted the city council to get behind it was that there were 26 deaths in that one year. We know they were not all attributed to texting and driving. There was the oil and truck traffic congestion, but one was one too many."

The city of Midland gave drivers a grace period. As of November of last year, 7 citations had been issued. They say the number was so low because officers were being lenient and mainly issuing warnings.

"It is time to put our foot down. I told the Chief and talked to the officers, and said, lets get a little more stringent about putting the enforcement in place. The only way we're going to get citizens to stop texting and driving is to get in their pocket book," Mayor Morales said.

A citation for distracted driving in Midland is a $500 fine. If you are stopped by Midland police, here's what you can expect.

The Midland Police Department said they have a seven-step process. "We make contact saying, I'm officer Ellinger with MPD. The reason you are being stopped is for your speed, or it looked like you were texting and driving. We ask if there is there any reason for your speed, or reason for you being on your phone. Then, we'll give them a chance to justify the reason that they were stopped."

Contrary to popular belief, people are more likely to be stopped and cited for texting at a stop light or stop sign.

"It's a whole lot easier to look for people texting and driving at stop lights, where they're stopped. Mainly, because they feel like it's a lot safer to text and drive while they are stopped. Also, the vehicles are a whole lot closer on these roads," said Ellinger.

So what can you do behind the wheel?

"You're in your car, you can have your blue-tooth on, you can be listening to music, you an use your GPS, but if you're sitting there texting and driving while sitting there at the intersection, or going a hundred miles per hour, you're going to be on our radar," said Morales.

"So if they can show us they were on their GPS, that's the end of contact," said Ellinger.

In order to look through a drivers phone, an officer must have a search warrant.

That's what makes it difficult for Midland Police to enforce the law, because its hard to prove that a driver was actually texting. A question on many drivers minds is, what about police? Are they allowed to use their laptops behind the wheel? Can they text and drive?

"There's discussion about police officers and what their role is. They're just doing their work and they'll continue to do their work, and they'll continue following the law just like everyone else," said Morales.

"We have to use these to get to where we're going, to better serve the citizens of Midland," said Ellinger.

There are concerns that people who are driving into Midland for the first time or just moved to the city, don't know about the ordinance. That's why the city of Midland is hoping that more cities in West Texas will get on board with the no texting and driving ordinance.

"If you go through Midland, and then just go 14 miles down the road and Odessa doesn't have one, it gets very confusing for the person who's driving. So, it's a good idea from a regional standpoint, if the other communities would buy-in and implement a texting ordinance," said Mayor Morales.

The grace period is coming to an end, so as you hit the road, be mindful and be aware. Midland Police Officers have you on their radar.

"Don't text and drive, don't drink and drive, lock it. It all works together to keep our roads safer," said Mayor Morales.