November 09, 2008
Don't text and drive in Austin

The city of Austin is looking at enacting a ban on texting while driving.

The City of Austin's public safety task force approved a resolution Monday that could lead to a ban on texting while driving and a requirement that motorists use hands-free devices.

The resolution is a recommendation that the City Council ask City Manager Marc Ott and his staff to develop a proposal, vet it and bring it back to the council for consideration.

Council Member Mike Martinez, who is leading the effort, said he has received dozens of calls in recent months from motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists asking for such a law.

"It is something that needs to be done," Martinez said. "When you see accidents that have happened or you hear about near-misses, it is just a step we can take to ensure the safety of our citizens."


Debbie Russell, a task force member and president of the Central Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said she was concerned about criminalizing another behavior.

Traffic laws already address erratic driving, she said.

"There are a lot of distractions in the car," Russell said. "Just because this is the newest one ... doesn't mean we have to create a crime for this distraction."

I too deplore the general trend towards criminalizing things we don't like, but I have no complaint about this. It just strikes me as perfectly reasonable to ban texting while driving. Having said that, there is one argument against that I would find compelling:

Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said laws that ban texting or restrict cell phone use are well-intentioned but are not always effective because drivers don't think they will be enforced.

A study that the institute conducted in North Carolina found that teen drivers actually used cell phones more after a ban was enacted than they did before, he said.

If this study is typical and not exceptional, then I would change my mind and side with Ms. Russell. If such an ordinance would not have the desired effect, then it serves no purpose. I hope some more studies like this are conducted, so a consensus can be formed.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 09, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

"Don't Text while Driving" should be one of those self-evident truths to anyone with 5 working neurons. Maybe this is the sign of a regressive, anti-survival gene that needs to be removed from the gene pool. The sad thing is, too often the idiot takes others with him/her.


Posted by: Ed T. on November 9, 2008 8:07 AM
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