District 10 Councilman Mike Gallagher proposes amending the city's texting while driving ban ordinance to include a hands-free cell use policy while driving. Photo courtesy of City of San Antonio website
San Antonio banned texting while driving in 2010, but District 10 Councilman Mike Gallagher wants to take that law to another level, proposing that the city look into enforcing a “hands-free” cell use policy while driving. (Except in the case of emergencies, of course.)
“The intent of this amendment to the ordinance is to curb distracted driving as well as to provide the (San Antonio Police Department) with a better ability to enforce the ban on hand-held mobile communication devices while driving city-wide,” Gallagher said in a press release.
Since 2010, SAPD has issued 7,038 violations of the city’s existing texting while driving ban. If you’ve ever gotten a ticket for it, you know violators also get slapped with a $200 fine.
“Council would certainly make the roadways of San Antonio a safer place for everyone if a hand-held device ban were implemented,” Gallagher said, and that his proposal “would not infringe on anyone’s rights, rather it would serve to improve public safety."
In the last five years, more than 20 Texas cities and municipalities have passed texting while driving bans, with El Paso taking things a step further with banning all hand-held devices. In the 2011 Texas legislative session, lawmakers successfully passed a statewide texting ban only to have it vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry, who called the bill a “government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults” and an “overreach” of legislative authority.
The Texas Department of Transportation reported more than 90,000 crashes statewide in 2012 linked to distracted driving. And according to the National Highway Safety Administration, a drivers talking on cell phones are 30 percent more likely to get in an accident.
You don't have to buy a bluetooth just yet, though. Councilman Gallagher’s proposal will first go before the public safety committee of City Council, likely in September, and then go before the full body if approved. We imagine this will spark some lively conversation and feedback once, and if, it moves forward. But for now, watch the road!
Correction: This post was corrected to accurately indicate how many crashes, not deaths, have happened statewide related to distracted driving.