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What to Know about Austin’s Hands-Free Ordinance

It’s rare to see anyone who doesn’t have their eyes glued to their cell phone screens at this day in age, especially the millennial generation. Besides the obvious repercussions of the digital age like less human interaction, the escalated use of electronic devices has been dangerous for driving situations. The City of Austin decided to take charge and passed a hands-free ordinance to enhance car and bicycle safety. This ordinance went into effect January 1, 2015.

According to a study conducted by the CDC, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver EACH DAY. This number continues to rise year over year. Texting makes a crash up to 23 times more likely – a frightening statistic. No wonder the city took action. Officers were lenient, and gave Austin residents a month to adjust, but as of February 1st, Austin PD began issuing citations.

What to know about the hands-free law to stay fine-free:

Ordinance No. 20140828-041 prohibits the use of portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle or bicycle. You are able to use hands-free systems such as Bluetooth or headphones.

What is the purpose of this new ordinance?

The new ordinance is intended to prohibit distracted driving. Distracted driving refers to texting, any cell phone use, eating or drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading (even road maps), watching a video, adjusting the radio, and just about anything else that impairs your undeniable attention to the road. You are allowed to use your phone in the case of an emergency to dial 9-1-1 or 3-1-1; however, you are still encouraged to pull over in a safe area prior.

What is considered a portable electronic device?

    • Hand-held mobile telephone
    • Personal digital assistant
    • MP3
    • Music player
    • Electronic reading device
    • Laptop
    • Pager
    • GPS or navigation system
    • Electronic gaming device

What will this offense cost you?

This is considered a Class C Misdemeanor with fines being issued at $500. That’s a hefty amount that no one can afford to pay, so make sure to wait until you get home to text or tweet!

If you’re anything like us, hands-free systems are nothing short of frustrating. It’s difficult to hear the person on the other end and often times, they don’t even connect. However, force yourself to get used to these devices because this is an important law that will greatly reduce the number of potentially fatal auto accidents.