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12,000+ tickets given out for cell phone use while driving

In this day and age, you need a cell phone to manage almost everything. But sometimes, people can end up using them a bit too much, even while driving.

According to the San Antonio Police Department, last year, over 12,000 citations were given out.

A recent AAA study also found that unsafe mental distractions can last as long as 27 seconds after dialing, changing music, or even sending a text using voice commands. It’s a scary thought.

Since a hands free ordinance went into effect two years ago in the Alamo City, police say the citations have been heavy.

“It's a $200 fine,” says Sgt. Jesse Salame of the San Antonio Police Department.

City leaders say it’s a growing issue that needs a solution.

“We've realized it's not just a problem in San Antonio. It's all over the state,” says Councilman Mike Gallagher, District 10.

More than 10,000 were given out last year and in 2015, compared to Austin were nearly half the amount were given out in the same time frame. According to the ordinance, a driver can get cited for talking, texting, or surfing apps while driving. This includes at a traffic light.

“Studies that have shown that it's more dangerous than drinking and driving,” says Sgt. Salame.

When it comes to local highways, more drivers were cited on I-10 West and Highway 281 North. The streets where the most citations were issued are Callaghan, Nacogdoches, and Southwest Military Drive.

It's a law Attorney Jeff Davis thinks could be stronger, for instance, a higher fine. He also says there could be benefits with making the violation part of your record. As the ordinance stands now, it doesn't.

“Insurance companies could then use the fact that somebody was cited or ticketed for texting and driving using that in rating that driver's cost of insurance. A proven record of that driver's history just like a driver's drunk driving offense,” says Davis.

Davis also says it's important to take the right steps if getting in an accident becomes the case.

“If you're a victim of someone else who is texting and driving, obviously you witnessed it. So you can certainly say 'I witnessed it,'” Davis told us.

Make sure to document what you can.

“A lot of people are not going to want to admit their guilt. If there are other eyewitnesses on the scene if there's other people that saw the accident if you can get their names their phone numbers perhaps get a written statement from them,” added Davis.

Is breaking away from your cell phone easy? Probably not for most people. Is it worth it? Yes.

“Distracted driving gets people injured and killed,” adds Gallagher.

According to police, since 2014 there have been 8 fatalities in San Antonio linked to mobile phone devices.

Currently, there are legislative efforts to make a state- wide "hands free" ordinance.

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