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Major Texas city one step closer to cellphone ban in vehicles

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POSTED: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 12:52pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 12:55pm

Talking, texting or using a cell phone in a car is one step closer to being illegal in Austin. The city's Public Safety Commission approved a recommendation on how to toughen up the no texting ordinance already on the books. Police, however, say it'll be tough to enforce.

There's a sense among many Austin drivers that it's okay to text or talk on the cell phone as long as you're stopped at a red light, but pretty soon, this too could be illegal to do in Austin.

Texting and driving is already illegal in Austin, but the problem has gotten so out of hand that in January, city leaders created a special task force to look at the issue.

Assistant Chief Brian Manley with the Austin Police Department said it is very difficult to enforce. To help officers with enforcement, the distracted driving task force is recommending to make it illegal to use a cellphone in a car whether it's moving or not-- does not matter what you are doing with the cell phone.

The proposal would also include bicycles. The only exceptions could be people reporting an emergency and hands-free devices. Commercial vehicles would be allowed to use two-way radios while driving.

Manley said it would also be legal if you are in a parking lot and the vehicle is in park.

Love it or hate it, some say they saw the crackdown on distracted driving coming.

While the ordinance passed Monday night, the chairman of the Public Safety Commission believes the measure is overreaching.

"I personally think that that's a step too far. We need people to buy into the legislation. There's not going to be enough police officers to do the enforcement," said Kim Rossmo.

The public gets a chance to chime in on the issue at this week's council meeting on Thursday. The city council is expected to vote August 28.   

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