'Hands-free' city ordinance now in effect

Grieving grandfather joins state, national movements

SAN ANTONIO – A 30-day grace period is in effect, as of Thursday, allowing San Antonio drivers to adjust to not having their cellphones within their grasp under the city's new hands-free ordinance.

Starting in February, if drivers are caught holding a cellphone for any reason other than calling 911, even at stop lights, San Antonio police will begin issuing distracted driving violations with a fine of up to $200.

On the day the new ordinance officially took effect, Steven Abrams returned for the first time in nearly two years to the neighborhood sidewalk where his 6-year-old grandson was killed.

Two years ago this month, Brandon Abrams was struck by a driver who had swerved into the boy while he was on his bicycle waiting for an ice cream truck.

"He dropped his cellphone. Hit Brandon. Brandon flew up, hit the fence," Steven Abrams said.

His grandson would later die at the hospital. The driver told police he was reaching for his fallen phone and was never charged.

But Steven Abrams said he is grateful for the new ordinance, and he is now part of growing movements in Texas and throughout the U.S. to ban distracted driving through similar laws.   

"This is not just for Brandon," Steven Abrams said. "It could save anybody's life."

He said drivers have become too accustomed to texting and talking behind the wheel.

"There's a ding. ‘I've got to look at it.' No, you don't," Steven Abrams said.

He said he has not used his cellphone while driving since his grandson's death.

"I threw mine in the glove box," he said.

Abrams said drivers can wait until it's safe, either before or after they reach their destination.

He said he's learned distracted driving is much like DWI.

"The time frame that it takes for your eyes to re-focus and go back to the road, you have been driving blind," Abrams said.

He said drivers lived without them for years, so losing the convenience of cellphones is not the end of the world.

"This is the end of the world," Steven Abrams said, pointing to the memorial that remains at that site where his grandson was killed.