In case you’re new to Austin or you missed the big news at the beginning of 2015, Austin officially became a hands-free city last year. What this means for Austin drivers is a hefty fine of up to $500 if an officer sees you using a portable electronic device while driving. What kinds of devices qualify? City Ordinance No. 20140828-041 defines these as:
• 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
With distracted driving being on the rise due to increased usage of portable electronic devices in cars, the City’s goal is to reduce crashes caused by inattentive drivers. Distracted driving is defined as any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the primary goal of operating a motor vehicle, and usage of hand-held devices while driving has been one of the biggest problems.
From February 1, 2015 through December 23, 2015, City records showed 5,043 citations were issued. This figure does not include the one-month grace period in January during which Austin Police Department gave drivers a break.
In order to comply with the ordinance, drivers have the option of using hands-free technology in their automobiles like affixed navigation systems or Bluetooth enabled devices. If you need to handle your portable device, you can dial or text while stopped at a stop sign or red traffic light, but you can’t while operating your vehicle.
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