Cities Step in to Curb Distracted Driving Accidents
While many states throughout the nation have bans on distracted driving, specifically in regards to handheld devices, Texas still lacks any relevant laws. However, this has not stopped cities from stepping in to enforce their own municipal ordinances. More than 20 cities across the state have passed bans on texting or using any type of handheld or electronic device while driving, such as tablets or GPS.
Austin is one of the prominent cities that will be holding motorists accountable to these new ordinances. While they previously made texting while driving illegal, they have taken it a step further by making any use of phones, laptops, GPS or similar types of devices illegal. This ordinance is enforced against both motorist and bicyclists. If a driver or rider is found in violation of the new law, they can be fined up to $500.
In contrast to many state laws that prohibit even picking up a device while in the vehicle, Austin's municipal ordinances allow drivers to use handheld devices so long as they are stopped at a red light, in standstill traffic, or in emergency situations. They also encourage drivers to use Bluetooth or headphones for phone calls or dashboard mounts if they are using a device for directions.
Why the push for stricter laws against handheld devices?
There is no denying that the rise in distracted driving accidents and fatalities can be easily linked to the increasing availability of handheld devices. Whether drivers engage in texting, emailing, browsing the internet, or using social media, taking their eyes off the road for even just a few seconds can result in deadly accidents.
Overall, the main focus of the new law is to curb the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers and make the roads in Austin, and other cities, safer for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Is there truly a need for such serious action? Officials think so. In Travis County, there were reportedly 4,835 collisions that resulted in more than 1,700 injuries and 10 deaths as a result of distracted driving.
Not only that, but officials are hopeful that the increased measures will help clear up some of the serious traffic congestion that Austin battles. With more drivers unplugging from their devices and focusing on the road, the risk of accidents and traffic jams will ideally begin to drop in the coming months.