No cell phones: Buda drivers may go hands-free

By Paige Lambert

Buda may follow suit of its northern neighbor and prohibit the use of mobile devices while driving. The ordinance was approved 5-1 on first reading Tuesday night, with council member George Haehn dissenting. Council member Angela Kennedy was not present.

“A day doesn’t go by that you don’t hear of an accident caused by someone texting or dropping their phone,” Mayor Todd Ruge said. 

Council commissioned Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd and staff to develop an ordinance prohibiting the use of mobile devices while driving.

“Nothing particular to Buda brought this up,” Kidd said. “I think it was just because the no texting law in Austin put in on everyone’s mind.”

Kidd said the council requested his team use the Austin hands-free ordinance as a guide, which went into effect Jan. 1.

“If you are commuting from one jurisdiction to another the ordinances should be consistent,” Kidd said. 

The ordinance would ban activities requiring holding a mobile device, such as texting, dialing or emailing. Using a hands-free device or navigation system would be allowed, as long as it is affixed to the vehicle. 

It exempts emergency vehicles and commercial vehicles using a radio. 

Haehn said even if the ordinance is put into effect, it won’t keep people from using their phones.

“I saw a girl with a coke in one hand and her phone in the other driving 65 down Mopac,” he said. “This is just another way to try to regulate people and make a bigger headache.”

Ruge said while the ordinance won’t stop everyone, it is a step in the right direction.

“We can always go back and change ordinances if need be,” Ruge said. “We should at least give it a chance to see if it can save a life or two.”

If approved, Kidd said he recommends a period of education before it goes into effect. 

The ordinance will go through a second reading at the next meeting. If approved the ordinance may go through an amendment to reflect a grace period, Alicia Ramirez, Buda city secretary, said.

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