According to the Texas Department of Transportation, nearly one in five crashes in Texas can be blamed on distracted driving, which includes texting; using a cell phone; eating and drinking; talking to passengers; reading,including maps; using a navigation system; watching a video; grooming and adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player. Back in August, Austin’s City Council passed a texting-while-driving ban, which goes into effect on January 1, 2015. A similar regulation also goes into effect in San Antonio on the same day.
Although I have gradually scaled back the amount of time I spend on the phone in the car, knowing the are risks involved, I wanted to take some time to learn about the new law and what I need to do starting this Thursday (!). Here is what I found out:
- Drivers cannot view, send or compose an electronic message while a motor vehicle is in motion. Drivers can send messages while at a complete stop.
- Handsfree systems are permitted. Bluetooth, headphones or an affixed GPS system are permitted (basically, as long as you are not touching the device while you are driving and the car is in motion).
- Handheld cell phone use is allowed in emergencies. Of course, it’s always safer to pull over and come to a complete stop before placing a call, but calling 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 to report a crime or accident is permitted.
- It’s not just phones. You can receive a ticket for using any portable electronic device while your car is in motion, including a Kindle or other reading device, a tablet, a GPS, an MP3 player, laptop, pager (these still exist?), an electronic gaming device or a personal digital assistant.
- It’s not just cars. Bicycles are subject to the same regulations (are people really that coordinated? Because I’m certainly not!).
- Fines won’t be issued until February. Police officers will be issuing warnings during the month of January. Starting in February, violating the ordinance will put you at risk of receiving a fine of up to $500.
Here is a PSA the City of Austin filmed to get the word out about the new ordinance:
How are you planning to adjust to this new law?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nicole-Basham-Sara-Marzani-Photography-livemom.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 8-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.[/author_info] [/author]