Southlake City Council considers texting and driving ban

Posted Monday, May. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Average Number of Texting While Driving Citations Per Month Some Texas cities have adopted texting while driving bans. Here’s a breakdown of the average number of texting while driving citations each city issues per month. Austin: 16 Arlington: 4 Conroe: 1 Galveston: 3 Magnolia: 3 Missouri City: 2 San Antonio: 14 Source: Southlake Police Department’s research

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Southlake City Council members are considering a city-wide ban on texting while driving.

Earlier this month, the council met in a closed session to discuss developing an ordinance that would fine drivers for mobile phone use. No formal decisions were made at the meeting, but the Council agreed to continue discussions.

Mayor John Terrell said the city will wait to see if the state passes a bill that was passed by the state House in April banning texting while driving.

Councilman Martin Schelling was hesitant about the city’s involvement in adopting a plan.

“My preference is that we don’t get involved in it as a city,” he said during the meeting. “The enforcement of it is going to be difficult and I just don’t know if we need to reach out there and be the ones who say we’re going to ban texting in Southlake.”

Former councilman Al Zito, who was attending his final meeting as a council member after deciding not to seek reelection, said the city should be a leader on the issue.

“I sure would like to see that we stop kicking the can down the road on this and we adopt something,” he said. “If it stops one accident, two accidents, someone from getting hurt, that’s what I want.”

Police Chief Stephen Mylett presented information gathered from other cities that have texting ordinances.

The sample cities have rules banning the use of apps while a vehicle is in motion. Those cities require phones using a GPS to be affixed to the car.

Councilwoman Carolyn Morris said she rests her phone on a seat and follows the GPS’s verbal directions, which began a discussion about the intricacies of drafting an ordinance.

Morris said requiring drivers to have phones affixed to the car might be, “a little tough.”

Terrell said there would be no way to tell if a driver is holding a phone in their lap or in a cup holder if the devices are not required to be affixed to the vehicle.

“The whole goal is to have your attention fixed on the roadway instead of looking down,” he said.

Councilwoman Pamela Muller said it’s possible to buy attachments for devices to cars, which Morris waved off saying, “Maybe I don’t want a piece of Velcro on mine.”

Although Morris wouldn’t budge on her mobile GPS usage, she said she recognizes the dangers of distracted driving.

“I don’t see how you can text and keep your attention on the roadway,” she said. “There’s a distraction if you don’t know where you’re going.”

Mylett said the root of the problem is modifying driving behaviors, and education plays a role in curbing the problem. He said the police department plans to continue educating the public on all forms of distracted driving.

From 2010 to 2012, there were 24 crashes in Southlake where cellphone use was a contributing factor, but Mylett said the department has not identified any accidents with a cell or mobile phone as a contributing factor since August 2012.

Zito said an ordinance would be a key deterrent.

“Enforcing it is going to be a little challenging, but it’s really discouraging people from utilizing hand-held devices and not paying attention to driving,”

Dustin L. Dangli, 817-390-7770 Twitter: @dussssstin

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