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City Council Bans Hand-Held Devices While Driving

The Austin City Council banned use of hands-free devices yesterday. The ban starts in January of 2015.

Holding a phone while rolling on Austin streets is about to become against the law, but not just for Austinites driving cars and trucks.

The Austin City Council unanimously voted yesterday toban hand-held use of a mobile device, such as a cell phone, in Austin starting in January. It’s an expansion of the ordinance that already bans texting while driving. Texas law already bans mobile phone use in school zones.

The ban will not apply to drivers and cyclists when they are at a complete stop.

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell successfully pushed for an exception to allow driver use while stopped, pointing out that drivers shouldn't be ticketed while stopped, but, if they are, it's an appropriate defense in court. The resolution also allows drivers and cyclists are allowed to make hands-free phone calls.

Council also extended the ban to pedi-cab operators.

"I don't think it's good policy to have one set of laws for motorized vehicles and another set of laws for non-motorized vehicles," Leffingwell said. "If cyclists want to share the road with everybody else, they should be subject to the same laws as everybody else."

The ban includes GPS devices unless they're attached to a car or bike. In addition, those on the road are permitted to call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.

Trey Shaar is an All Things Considered producer, reporter and host. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @treyshaar.
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