Safety advocate wants Austin's hands-free ordinance revised

Proposed changes to hands-free ordinance

AUSTIN - A Vision Zero Task Force member wants to modify Austin's hands-free ordinance to no longer allow drivers to use devices when they're stopped at red lights and stop signs.

Distracted driving is such a big problem in Austin that you can easily catch people using their cell phones while driving. Austin police even started using Capital Metro buses to catch violators earlier this year.

Scott Johnson, a member of the city's Vision Zero Task Force, wants to get rid of that exception because he said drivers are still distracted. The task force was charged with reducing traffic fatalities after 2015's record 102.

"People think they can do things beyond their capabilities and more of them at the same time, but in reality that's not the case," said Johnson.

Johnson watched Monday night's Public Safety Commission meeting where one of Vision Zero's recommendation was discussed.

To allow police to impound vehicles if the driver on the road:

  • Is involved in a crash and doesn't have a license;
  • Has been convicted of two prior moving violations;
  • Has a suspended license from a drug offense, driving while intoxicated or from having multiple violations.

The Public Safety Commission vote was split 5 - 5, but Johnson said the unlicensed drivers measure will still make it to the Austin City Council.

"What other ways are we going to try to prevent fatalities which that group of people, that either has no drivers license or invalid drivers license is very much over represented when we look at the fatalities of vehicle drivers  have against other vehicle drivers," Johnson said.

Johnson planned to discuss his distracted driver plan with the rest of the task force when they meet next sometime in October.

As for a statewide texting and driving ban, Johnson is not optimistic because Gov. Greg Abbott has already expressed concern over such a law.

GO HERE to learn more about the Vision Zero Task Force.

(© 2016 KVUE)


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