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Phoenix-area city joins others in banning texting while driving

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PHOENIX — Another Phoenix suburb will be enforcing a ban on texting while driving as the Christmas holidays roll into high gear.

The northwest Valley city of El Mirage said Thursday it planned to require drivers use hands-free-only communication in their cars or be fined up to $250 if caught by authorities. The ordinance will go into effect Dec. 21.

The Maricopa County city joined Phoenix, Tempe, Surprise, Flagstaff and Tucson in handing out some form of punishment to anyone who texts while he or she is behind the wheel on the road. There is no statewide law against texting while driving.

El Mirage is about 30 miles from downtown Phoenix.

Tempe leaders passed a distracted-driver ordinance in 2015. Drivers who are texting will only be cited if they are spotted driving erratically or swerving. The measure includes use of any mobile device that could split a driver’s attention. Police began ticketing violators in late January 2016.

Surprise began cracking down on drivers who were texting in September.

Police Sgt. Tim Klarkowski said shortly before the ban in the West Valley city was imposed that, “by and large our goal is just to educate during those first 30 days.” But extreme circumstances would warrant citations, he added.

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