Drivers will no longer be able to talk on handheld cellphones while passing through school zones in Highland Park.
The ban, which goes into effect on Dec. 1, will be in effect during school zone times only -- typically early mornings and mid-afternoons. It's believed to be the first restriction on cellphone use while driving in Texas.
The Town Council passed the ban in a unanimous vote during its regular council meeting on Monday. Officials added that within six months, the council expects to revisit the issue, possibly to expand the restriction townwide.
At least one other city, neighboring University Park, is considering a similar restriction. There, the City Council referred the issue to its public safety committee, which also will explore whether the city should enact a citywide ban instead of school zones only.
The University Park council could vote on restrictions as early as its Dec. 4 meeting.
Meanwhile, Highland Park Department of Public Safety Director Darrell Fant said that after a recent meeting of North Texas police chiefs, a few asked to see Highland Park's proposed ordinance. But officials from several cities, including Richardson, Farmers Branch, Addison and Southlake, said Monday that they have not looked at pursuing cellphone restrictions in their cities.
Cellphone restrictions of varying degrees have become more common across the country in recent years, but their effectiveness in improving safety hasn't been consistent.
Studies conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in New York, one of the first states to prohibit handheld cellphone use while driving, showed that after an initial drop-off in cellphone use, within 16 months drivers went back to their old habits.
"Even though police were writing tickets, it wasn't visible to the average driver," said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the insurance industry-funded research organization.
Mr. Rader said that drivers won't comply with the law unless there's a consistent message that it's being enforced. That has worked in the case of seatbelt laws, with "Click it or Ticket" campaigns combined with news media attention, but he said that people won't change their habits unless they think there's a good chance they'll be caught.