Rollingwood passes hands-free ordinance to reduce distracted driving

The city of Rollingwood approved an ordinance that prohibits the use of cell phones while driving within the city limits.

The city of Rollingwood approved an ordinance that prohibits the use of cell phones while driving within the city limits.

Rollingwood City Council approved an ordinance Monday that bans the use of handheld mobile devices while operating vehicles, including cars and bicycles, within the city limits.

“I’ve had several people ask me why police aren’t enforcing the hands-free ordinance in Rollingwood,” Mayor Pro Tem Sara Hutson said when introducing the idea at a Feb. 15 meeting. “It’s because we don’t have one.”

Rollingwood Chief Rollingwood Police Chief Dayne Pryor discussed the dangers of distracted drivers at a meeting Feb. 15.[/caption]

Hutson said she has had some close calls related to drivers using their phones while driving, and she has also seen people texting and on their phones while driving in the city’s park zone.

According to the ordinance, the ban prohibits the use of hand-held wireless communication devices while motor vehicle operators are in motion on public roads. Violators of the ordinance can be fined up to $500.

The ordinance states that using a wireless communication device in “hands-free” mode, such as using a speaker phone, a phone attachment or an in-car Bluetooth system, is allowed if the driver does not use their hands to access the device.

Drivers are also allowed to access their devices while at a complete stop, the ordinance states.

“Whether you support the ordinance or not, the fact is other cities around Rollingwood have this,” Rollingwood Police Chief Dayne Pryor said.

A hands-free ordinance went into effect in West Lake Hills in April 2015, and ordinances in Bee Cave and Lakeway were enforced starting in July 2015. The city of Austin’s ordinance went into effect in January 2015.

“I’ve seen how devastating accidents can be that were caused by people just looking at their phone,” Pryor said. “Distracted drivers are just as dangerous as drunk drivers.”