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In Absence of Texting Ban, Austin Takes Action

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The Community Impact Newspaper reports that Texas is among six states without a distracted driving law, but Austin, along with 21 other cities including San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Galveston has passed municipal ordinances that ban texting or the handheld use of electronic devices while driving.

As of Jan. 1, drivers and bicyclists are no longer allowed to touch their phones, tablets, GPS, or other electronic devices while their vehicle or bicycle is in motion. If they do, violators face up to $500 in fines.

Drivers and bicyclists are allowed to touch their devices providing they are lawfully stopped at a red light, at a standstill in traffic, or calling emergency services. Still, use of any device is illegal in school zones.

Smartphones and other electronic devices may be used if they are mounted to the vehicle's dashboard. Motorists can take advantage of Bluetooth devices as long as only one earbud is being used. This way, drivers can still hear traffic around them.

Brian Manley, Austin Police Department assistant chief said that the new law is intended to limit drivers' distractions and it will make Austin's roads safer.

How big is the problem in Texas?

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), distracted driving is becoming increasingly common and dangerous, causing traffic accidents and fatalities. In 2013, there were 94,943 distracted driving accidents in Texas that involved (distraction, driver inattention, or cell phone use).

These crashes caused 18,576 serious injuries and 459 deaths. TxDOT reports that nearly one in five crashes in Texas involves a distracted driver. In Travis County, there were 4,835 distracted driving crashes, 1,712 cases of serious injuries and 10 fatalities in 2013.

According to Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, distracted driving has caused more fatalities annually than homicides in Austin.

Al Bastidas, founder of Please Be Kind to Cyclists says the ordinance will help bicyclists avoid the dangers of distracted driving.

"As a person on a bicycle, we're the most vulnerable road users because we have no protection. We train or brain to ride our bicycle defensively," said Bastidas. "We've been riding our bikes without [this law] for a long time, and we're definitely going to feel a lot safer if the law gets to be enforced. It's not as easy to enforce as we think."

"I realize it's going to be hard for a lot of people to make that change, but you kind of saw the same thing…when all of a sudden you had to wear a seat bel," Leffingwell said.

Were you injured by a distracted driver?

Were you injured in a distracted driving crash? If so, don't hesitate to contact The Daspit Law Firm to file a claim for compensation. Not only is Attorney Daspit a former insurance defense lawyer, he offers free case evaluations and he accepts cases on a contingency fee basis. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by contacting our Austin personal injury firm – give us a call today!

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