Citywide texting and driving ban to go into effect Tuesday

Citywide texting and driving ban to go into effect Tuesday

Citywide texting and driving ban to go into effect Tuesday
May 19
11:19 2014

Steven James // Staff Writer

UPDATE, 5:55 p.m. on May 20: Although the ordinance is now in effect, Denton police will only hand out warnings to drivers in violation of the texting and driving law for the first 30 days. Citations will be issued starting June 5.

Using wireless devices to read and send text messages when driving is prohibited in Denton as of Tuesday after city council passed an ordinance banning the dangerous activity.

Councilman Joey Hawkins said in most cases people who get pulled over will be treated like those who are pulled over for speeding. The punishment for violating the ban is a fine up to $200. One of the consequences for not paying the fine could be the issue of a warrant, though Hawkins expects that situation to be rare.

The ordinance, passed on May 6, was first a recommendation from the Traffic Safety Commission, which expressed concerns about the status of texting and driving in Denton, councilman Jim Engelbrecht said.

In order to protect those who are passing through Denton and are not aware of the ban, I-35 and all of the frontage and access roads are exempt. Texas is one of several U.S. states that does not have a statewide restriction on texting while driving.

The ban does not affect Texas cell phone laws already in place. State law already prohibits the use of cell phones if a driver is in a school zone, is under the age of 18, has had a permit for less than 6 months and if the driver is operating a school bus.

“There was some question of whether it be a higher ban of any cell phone device, period,” Engelbrecht said. “Since there’s not a state law, what you wind up when you do these things is that each municipality has a different kind of law.”

He also said like with any new law that gets passed, the public might have a hard time getting used to the ban.

“These regulations are fixed, and the environment in which you set them is fluid, changing and moving,” he said. “It’s all complicated.”

Denton’s public information officer Lindsey Baker said the majority of Denton residents expressed interest in only banning texting, not other forms of phone use.

“It was created based on what other cities had enacted, and other communities, so there was a lot of research and background work done,” Baker said.

She also said with the increase in distracted driving cases, people should follow the ban.

“There have been concerns as to the enforceability of it,” she said. “We maintain that, but it’s a great step in the right direction.”

Hawkins said the ban was also to make Denton residents aware that city council is trying to take care of this issue.

“You’re definitely not focused on the road when you are trying to find that next letter to press,” Hawkins said.

He also said with the constant changes in technology, the issues with texting and driving today might be different tomorrow.

“Things can happen very quickly,” he said. “But, we do want people to know we are aware of [the issue].”

Feature Image: UNT alumna Bernadetter Orona checks her text messages last Thursday night while driving on Oak Street. The City of Denton made it illegal to text and drive as of Tuesday May 20. Photo by Staff Photographer Daniel Gonzalez.

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