MCALLEN - An official ban on texting while driving is in effect in McAllen. Monday, January 24th, City leaders passed an ordinance that forbids drivers from text messaging, browsing the web or viewing other data electronically, like an I-Pad or Kindle.
"Well I have been thinking about it for a while, I am a bike rider so I'm out on the road a lot, and I also drive my car around, so I see the effect of texting on people's ability to drive. And then as a city commissioner I am aware that we have around 8-thousand accidents a year in McAllen, and I don't think we keep statistics on how many are caused by texting, but if you talk to most people a lot of them are," said Jim Darling, McAllen City Commissioner.
The new offense is being treated as a class C misdemeanor. If caught, drivers could be fined up to $500.
"This is an observation made by the officer, if he observes that somebody has violated this ordinance on the banning of texting, that officer, based on those observations, may stop that motorist and may issue a citation," said Sgt. Joel Morales, McAllen Police Department.
Any distraction while driving can lead to accidents, but why is texting so bad? Officials said because it makes you take your eyes off the road, blinding you to your surroundings.
For example, if you are traveling 30 miles an hour, you're going about 30 feet a second. So if you look down for two seconds at a text message, you're traveling 60 feet, totally blind.
Officials said it's the younger generations that they are seeing the most problems with texting and driving. That's why Commissioner Darling met with teens to get their opinion.
"I met with the Mayor's youth council because I think they probably do a lot of texting, and surprisingly they were all for it, they realize how dangerous it is, and so hopefully it will help parents too now they can say not only is it our rule you shouldn't text, but it's also against the law," said Darling.
Police said when it comes to talking on the phone and driving, while legal, police hope drivers realize doing anything else can be distracting while driving. And police want drivers to make smart, safe choices when getting behind the wheel.