Austin may become a "hands-free zone" - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Austin may become a "hands-free zone"

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Texting and driving is illegal in Austin, but soon, city leaders could go for a completely hands-free zone.

The concern is that people can do way more on their smartphones now, compared to when the ordinance was originally passed...and the language of the law needs to be updated.

We've all been there. You need to make a call, get a call or text message.

This video shows how quickly distractions can turn into dangerous crashes.

"It's actually gotten more dangerous with the smart phones," said Bianca Bentzin, the Chief Prosecutor for the City of Austin. "A smart phone takes two hands. You have to hold it and tap."

In 2009, the city council passed a texting-while-driving ban. It went into effect January 1, 2010.

Bianca said, "Through October of last year, there were about 700 tickets issued for electronic use while driving."

City leaders are trying to make Austin a completely hands-free zone.

"No more iPads while driving. No more e-readers," added Bianca.

Under the current law, you can dial a number from the car, but under the new initiative, if you want to be on the phone in the car, you're most likely going to be required to use a hands-free device, like Bluetooth.

"It actually takes a driver more time to search their address book or type in a number then it does to respond to a really short text," said Bianca.

You can use GPS on your cell phone under the current law, but it has to be mounted somewhere in your car. Bianca says this probably won't change.

Bianca said, "We know that it's not reasonable to say you can never use your cell phone while driving, ever."

According to TxDOT, distracted driving caused more than 90,000 traffic crashes in 2012.

"We'd like it to really expand to all technology that's keeping eyes off the road and hands off the wheel," said Bianca.

Ultimately, it will be up to city council to make the final call.

According to Austin Police Department numbers, one in four crashes involves distracted driving.

Texas does not have a statewide law banning the use of cell phones while driving,

Here are some other prohibitions in Texas. Drivers with learner's permits are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving. Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless communications devices. School bus operators are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present. In school crossing zones, all drivers are prohibited from using handheld devices.

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