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Is Austin's Texting Ban Making a Difference?

Austin drivers may not be paying much attention to the ban on texting while driving.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News
Austin drivers may not be paying much attention to the ban on texting while driving.

In Austin, it’s illegal to use your cell phone for anything other than phone calls while driving. That includes texting and surfing the internet. The ban went into effect January 1, 2010.

But is the ban making a difference?

The Austin Police Department told KUT that officers have written just 26 citations for texting while driving since the city’s ban took effect.

APD Corporal Bob Miljenovich says it’s a difficult citation for officers to actually observe and enforce.

It’s also unclear whether the texting ban has made a difference in traffic accidents. The number of crashes went down by nearly three thousand in the two years after the ban compared to the two years prior. But there were 80 more crashes specifically attributed to distracted driving over that same period.

Miljenovich attributes the overall decline in crashes, in part, to the removal of a different sort of distraction—disabled cars on the road.

“Our goal really is, as soon as possible, to completely move any crashes on those high speed roadways or major roads within the city—completely off into a parking lot, where all the emergency lights can be turned off and most of the people going by don’t even notice you anymore," said Miljenovich.

Of interest: A Belgian Nonprofit group recently released a Public Service Announcement that demonstrates the dangers of texting while driving in a unique way!

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.