An engineer with the Austin Transportation Department claims distracted driving is contributing to the traffic problem and is launching a campaign to spread awareness about it. Essentially, a distracted driver will sit at a green light while on his or her phone. After finally becoming aware the cars in front have moved through the green light, the signal turns yellow. This ensures the distracted driver will make the light, but all the cars behind him will pile up at the now-red light. According to traffic engineers, this affects the whole city and is a big cause of traffic congestion in Austin.
However, distracted driving is a more serious issue in Austin than just piling on some more traffic. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, one out of every five car crashes is due to distracted driving statewide. That said, 463 people were killed and more than 3,000 were injured in Texas last year. There were a reported 4,148 distracted driving car crashes last year in Austin.
What is Austin Doing to Reduce the Amount of Texting and Driving?
While Texas has no state law that prohibits cell phone use while driving, Austin has a hands-free ordinance. This prohibits drivers from using any types of hand-held device while driving or riding a bicycle. Disobeying this law could result in a fine of up to $500.
Additionally, Austin stepped up its police enforcement. Last year, the Austin Police Department (APD) issued 5,043 tickets to drivers for violating the hands-free ordinance. APD even used spotters to ride in buses. This way, officers could peer down into car windows from the buses and radio nearby motorcycle cops when they spotted a distracted driver.
Austin has also heard and approved proposals from Vision Zero, a task force adopted to help decrease the number of traffic accident fatalities to zero. While the task force has focused on working to improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, Vision Zero has yet to address Austin’s distracted driving problem.
Increased enforcement and the hands-free ordinance are good steps in the right direction. However, the City of Austin needs to step up their game and help increase awareness of the dangers of distracted driving because it is still very clearly an issue in Austin.
The Law Offices of Aaron Allison is a personal injury law firm in Austin that helps people involved in a distracted driving car crash.