Austin looks at making hands-free ordinance more strict

FILE: Mobile phone. (KXAN File Photo)
FILE: Mobile phone. (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some changes could be coming to the way you use your phone in your car.

Monday, the Public Safety Commission is giving a few recommendations for changes to the cities texting while driving ordinance. During the meeting, the commissioners will look at three different amendments.

One change would make it illegal for drivers to use their phone during a stop light, including no gps maps or navigation system and no changing music.

The second would keep drivers from using headphones. Public Safety Commissioner Ed Scruggs says that change comes down to safety.

“It was my impression that that was already illegal but citizens feel like we need to spell that out. We want people to hear emergency vehicles when they are passing through. Some people have noticed problems with drivers not yielding to emergency vehicles. I can’t imagine wearing headphones while driving or riding a bicycle and you can’t hear a car behind,” Scruggs said.

The third proposed change, Scruggs believes, will generate the most questions. Under the proposed change, passengers would not be allowed to use a phone to take photos or selfies while the car is moving. Including back seat passengers.

“The rights of the other people in the car, their use of electronics is certainly different from the drivers. But you have to define that line of when does it become distracting to the driver,” Scruggs said. “Trying to get people to focus on the fact that we are in an automobile going down the street. And what happens impacts the lives of other people not just yourself or the driver of the car.”

If the proposals are approved, they will go on to the Austin City Council for a vote.

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