AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department is cracking down on distracted drivers.
The Highway Enforcement Unit is traveling on a bus along Interstate 35. Officers are using the bus to look for drivers on their phones.
When they spot a driver breaking the law, police will then call a motorcycle officer who will pull over the driver and issue a ticket.
“It’s not surprising that people are doing it, what’s surprising to me is that people haven’t gone out and bought a blue tooth device,” said Sgt. Michael Barger with APD Highway Response Team.
It is important to note that you can use a hands free device as long as you are not holding your phone while driving. However, when you are in a school zone you should not be on your phone at all.
“People used to hold the phone up so they could drive and text, but with the ordinance people know they can’t hold the phone so they hold it in their lap,” said Austin Police Sgt. Michael Barger. “When you’re in a regular car you have a hard time looking into a vehicle so you can’t see the cell phone in their lap.”
Last year, distracted drivers caused more than 100,000 crashes statewide. More than 2,500 people were badly injured in those wrecks and 422 people lost their lives because of distracted driving.
While there is a hands free law, Texas is far behind more than 30 other states when it comes to passing a distracted driving law.
“Nobody would ever think about closing their eyes and driving for the length of a football field, yet people are doing it all the time when they’re texting and driving,” said AAA Texas Spokesman Doug Shupe.
First-time offenders may be eligible to have their fine waived, if they can show proof that they bought a Bluetooth or other hands-free attachment for their phone or device after their citation.