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Government/Politics

Put Down That Phone And Drive

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Eileen Pace
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The City of San Antonio’s new cell phone ban starts at midnight, Jan. 1. 

Here's a guide to clear up some of the practical questions about the new ordinance.

First of all, it could cost you $200 for a violation of the new law.

The difference between this ordinance and the texting ban passed in 2010 is that now, holding the phone to your ear is illegal.

San Antonio Police Dept. spokesman Sgt. Javier Salazar says drivers can initiate a call or end a call, but otherwise, the law means hands off.

“If you have a Bluetooth device, you can do that. Many cars come equipped with Bluetooth built in where it’s a speaker phone. Or you can simply put the phone on speakerphone and have it down on your console. You just can’t have it in your hand while using it,” he said.

The tougher law still prohibits holding a two-way communication device to read, write or send a text, look at pictures, or play games while driving.

Driving means being anywhere on the road, in a driving lane. Only drivers who are legally parked out of the lanes of traffic are permitted to pick up their phones.

“A red light does not constitute parked, or being in stop-and-go traffic on Loop 410 does not constitute parked. That would still be a violation of the ordinance if you’re in stop-and-go traffic or at a red light or even a stop sign and you reach over to pick up your phone,” he said.

Drivers are permitted to use a GPS if the phone is affixed to the vehicle, such as with a dashboard holder.

Salazar says there is a 30-day grace period during which officers will issue warning citations only.