Ashland police are stepping up enforcement this month of the state's ban on using cell phones while driving, almost six months after the new law took effect.

Ashland police are stepping up enforcement this month of the state's ban on using cell phones while driving, almost six months after the new law took effect.

"If you drive around town, you see people talking on their cell phones all the time," Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said. "So they're either ignoring the law or they're not aware of it. And it seems hard to believe people wouldn't be aware of it six months into it."

Police have issued 67 citations since the law took effect Jan. 1. Officers already have cited 12 drivers in June, more than last month's total, Holderness said.

In January, officers issued warnings to drivers who violated the law by talking or texting on their phones, without using a hands-free device. The following month, officers began handing out citations.

Through Feb. 28, Ashland police issued "fix-it" tickets, which allowed people to avoid a $142 fine by showing the Ashland Municipal Court that they had purchased a hands-free device or had installed one in their vehicle.

Some officers have continued to issue warnings to drivers who weren't aware of the new law, but that will end soon, Holderness said.

"There will come a point when that 'I didn't know' excuse isn't going to work at all," he said.

Holderness said the Ashland Police Department hasn't set up any major sweeps to catch drivers using cell phones, but all patrol officers are watching for violations.

Although some drivers appear to be ignoring the cell phone ban, it likely has made Ashland's streets safer, he said.

"I think it probably has," he said. "However many people are still doing it, I'm sure there are fewer than before it was the law."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.