North Texas Daily

Enforcement begins for texting ban

Enforcement begins for texting ban

Enforcement begins for texting ban
January 22
00:01 2015

Steven James / Senior Staff Writer

delay in the mailing and placing of warning signs has prevented Denton police officers from enforcing the city’s texting while driving ban.

The signs, which state, “Prohibited: texting or electronic messaging while driving, by city ordinance, up to $200 fine,” have been mailed and are currently being placed in different areas around the city.

“This is an effort to improve public safety,” City Transportation Director Mark Nelson said. “Any time you take your eyes off the road, one to two seconds to change the radio, or looking down at your phone, a lot can happen, especially when you’re going 45, 50, 60 mph. Have you ever stopped at a red traffic light, and the person in the car in front of you has their phone right up to their face, texting?”

Nelson said although the Dentonordinance was passed by a 7-0 city council vote on May 6, local law enforcement have not been able to enforce the ban because of the lack of signs letting people know the ban exists. However, he said the ordinance should be officially enforced later this month.

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llustration by Jake Bowerman – Senior Staff Illustrator

Nelson said Denton’s Traffic Safety Commission and the Texas Department of Transportation collaborated to create the signs.. Meeting state-mandated street sign provisions, as well as deciding what the signs would look like, were the main reasons for the delay.

Signs will not be placed along Interstate 35 or I-35 service roads so people who do not live in Denton will not be penalized for a law they do not know exists.

The ordinance prevents Denton citizens from using any handheld mobile devices, not just cell phones, for purposes other than making phone calls. The ordinance does not affect texting while driving laws already in existence, including the restrictions of texting while driving in school zones and the prohibition of all bus drivers from using cell phones.

The idea for the ordinance came from a recommendation by the TSC in 2012 and was based on ideas from texting and driving ordinances from surrounding areas.

Texas is one of six states that does not have a statewide ban on texting while driving.

In 2011 and 2013, the Texas House of Representatives voted to create a statewide texting while driving law for all handheld devices, but  proposala were vetoed both times by Gov. Rick Perry. Forty cities in Texas currently have texting while driving bans, according to TxDOT.

“The city of Denton wants to send a message that it’s a big safety hazard,” city councilman Joey Hawkins said. “It’s long overdue.”

Hawkins said public education campaigns will be launched in the near future to create awareness of the law, though what exactly will be taught in the campaigns has yet to be decided.

“People need to be focused on the road,” Hawkins said. “It seems like anybody hardly ever talks on the phone anymore.”

Texting increases crash risk by 23 times and in 2012, distracted drivers caused 18 percent of all fatal car crashes, according to the National Highway Safety Commission.

According to distraction.gov, 27 percent of distracted drivers in fatal car crashes are in their 20s and using a headset to communicate is not considered significantly safer than using fingers.

“This is an issue that is observed many times every day,” UNT Police Detective Criminal Investigator John DeLong said. “We enforce all of the same laws and ordinances that the Denton Police Department does.”

Kinesiology freshman Joel Dunn said he heard about the ban after  arriving at UNT in the fall. He said he had seen many people around Denton and UNT texting while driving, especially when people stop their cars at red lights and stop signs.

“I think that they’ve proven time and again that it impairs your ability to drive,” Dunn said. “I think the ban can help lessen the problem.”

Featured Image: Business junior Austin Nix texts his friend while driving. Photo Illustration by Adriana Salazar – Staff Photgrapher

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