A new City of Austin ordinance prohibits the use of all electronic hand-held devices while operating a vehicle or bicycle.
To avoid fines up to $500, put your phone away or consider using a hands-free system such as Bluetooth or headphones, or an affixed GPS system.
The Austin City Council adopted Ordinance No. 20140828-041 amending section 12-1-34 of the City Code to prohibit the use of portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle or bicycle. This law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.
Austin is leading the state of Texas in the effort to refocus drivers on the task of driving. The hands-free initiative aims to increase safety by decreasing distracted driving in Austin.
Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving and all distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.
The Law – Vehicles and Bikes
Unless using a hands-free system such as Bluetooth or headphones, or a GPS system, use of portable devices while driving a car or operating a bike will be a citable offense beginning Jan. 1, 2015.
As defined in Ordinance No. 20140828-041, portable electronic device means a hand-held,
- Mobile telephone
- personal digital assistant
- MP3 or other hand-held music player
- electronic reading device
- laptop computer
- broadband personal communication device
- GPS or navigation system
- electronic gaming device
- portable computing device
Hand-held cell phone use is permitted in the event of an emergency such calling 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 to report a crime or an accident. Even in an emergency situation, it is best to pull over and come to a complete stop before using or operating any mobile or hand-held device.
No Texting, No Distractions
A driver of a motor vehicle may not use a phone, tablet, or other device to view, send, or compose an electronic message while moving, per existing City of Austin Ordinance No. 20091022-028 and Ordinance No. 20091217-090. This law is commonly known as the texting-while-driving ban. Drivers may use their device to send messages while at a complete stop.
Using a handheld device and texting while driving are just two activities that can distract drivers and cyclists. All forms of distracted driving pose a danger to drivers, their passengers, and bystanders. Nationwide, many organizations have come together to encourage drivers to focus solely on driving while operating a vehicle.
Distracted driving includes:
• Using a cell phone for any reason
• Eating and drinking
• Talking to passengers
• Reading, including maps
• Using a navigation system
• Watching a video
• Adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 Player
In 2012, an estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, this was a 9 percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011, according to Distraction.gov.
The City of Austin urges you to focus on the road, the rest can wait.