SAN ANTONIO – Add New Braunfels to the list of more than 40 Texas cities telling drivers to put their phones away.
Council members Monday passed their first reading of an ordinance that would ban texting and talking while driving, according to the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.
The council agenda said staff and the Traffic and Transportation Advisory Board began working on writing an ordinance in January -- the same time San Antonio was implementing its own hands-free ordinance. The early versions considered banning phone calls, but police said it would be difficult to tell if someone was talking or texting. The latest ordinance would ban:
- Engaging in a call
- Sending, reading or writing a text message
- Taking or looking at photos or written text, as well as looking at websites
- Playing games
- Any other use of the device while driving
The city is defining "operating a motor vehicle" as including a motor vehicle that is moving, stopped or standing on the public street, highway or right-of-way, unless it is lawfully parked.
There are five situations in which the law would not apply:
The city even offered legal defenses, that include a driver reporting illegal activity to law enforcement, making a medical or emergency call (but only to an emergency response operator, a fire department, a law enforcement agency, a hospital, a physician's office, or a health clinic) or in the reasonable belief that a person's life or safety is in immediate danger.
The Texas Department of Transportation lists 40 cities that have banned texting while driving. It said Austin is the first city to ban texting while driving in 2009. In January, that city went to a hands-free ordinance.
In New Braunfels, the ordinance still has another reading before the proposal becomes law. Then, drivers will have a 30-day grace period to get used to the new ordinance. After that, police will begin ticketing drivers.
Fines start at $100 for a first violation to $500 for a third violation.