On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Lee Leffingwell and City Council members unanimously passed a distracted driving ordinance, banning the use of cellphones and other electronic devices while driving a vehicle or riding a bicycle.
This ordinance adds restrictions to an existing ordinance that bans texting while driving and includes activities associated with cellphones and handheld devices, such as taking calls, browsing the Internet and playing games.
The revised ordinance also applies to cyclists and motorists. Mayor Leffingwell stressed that cyclists will be subject to the same laws if they share the road with motorized vehicles.
On July 28, a city-commissioned group released several recommendations to the City of Austin regarding the use of phones while driving. Initial recommendations included banning cellphone use even while the vehicle was stopped in traffic or at a stoplight. The new ordinance allows motorists and cyclists to use devices while at a complete stop.
Other exceptions include using cellphones in a hands-free mode of operation, using a navigation system that is affixed to the vehicle or using a phone to report a crime or emergency.
The ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2015.