April 12, 2008
San Antonio to jump on board the school zone cellphone ban bandwagon

So far, the only places to ban cellphone use while driving through school zones have been small cities-within-cities like Highland Park and West University Place. That's about to change in a big way.

Soon you might not only have to slow down in a school zone, you might also have to hang up that cell phone with the push for the cell phone-free school zones in San Antonio.

The ordinance is set to go before the City Council within the next few weeks. If it passes, those caught breaking the law could end up paying a $200 fine.

If you can drive 20 mph and talk on the phone, city leaders say you probably won't be multi-tasking for too much longer.

"It's a matter for a lot of folks of changing their behavior, putting the phone down or using a hands-free device, so that when you're going through school zones and there's kids out and about, you have the full focus on the road," District 7 City Councilman Justin Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said he has the ball rolling on the law. The ordinance already took effect in Dallas and surrounding areas, and if supporters have their way, you can bet to see it in San Antonio, too.

What's the over/under on when Houston follows suit? Six months? If it's not on City Council's agenda by the end of the year, I'll be surprised.

The proposed law includes reasonable exceptions, including parents trying to locate their children.

"If you're in a school zone and you're not driving, then this isn't going to apply to you, if you're not moving," Rodriguez said.

Seeing this makes me once again feel a twinge of sympathy for AT&T's position about a uniform statewide standard for this sort of thing, instead of a patchwork of local rules, all of which differ as Highland Park's and West U's do from each other and from San Antonio's. Now obviously, not a whole lot of people drive through more than one of these places in a given year, but all it's going to take is a Houston ordinance that allows hands-free devices to create the potential for confusion here. I will also be surprised if this does not show up on the Lege's radar in 2009.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 12, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Actually, the city of Dallas passed an ordinance last year that prohibits the use of hand held devices in active school zones. Several other smaller cities in and around the Dallas area have followed suit. Point is that none of them has gone so far as to restrict the use of hands-free devices, like West U is trying to do. Such a restriction raises lots of room for abuse. ACLU Texas sent out an e-mail blast yesterday raising some pretty strong objections to the West U proposal.

Posted by: don on April 12, 2008 12:04 PM

If cops can't catch the speeders who routinely blow through school zones, how they gonna nail cell phone users?

This is all about creating the illusion of effective government.

Posted by: Dennis on April 12, 2008 6:58 PM