In the year since a ban on operating a phone while driving went statewide, only 47 total citations have been issued by Kyle and Buda Police combined since mid-August.
Passed during the 85th Texas Legislative Session and made effective Sept. 1, 2017, the law prohibits motorists from reading, writing or sending electronic messages while driving. Since then, Buda Police Department has issued 22 citations, while Kyle has issued 25.
Both Kyle and Buda had ordinances against using a phone while driving prior to the statewide ban. Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett said the enforcement of the bans has not changed, but that the state’s ban serves as a further reminder to drivers to put their cell phones down.
“I would say the law serves mostly as a reminder and deterrent to drivers to avoid texting and driving and encourages self-compliance with the law,” Barnett said.
It can be difficult for officers to enforce the ban, as it is not always apparent if a driver is using a phone or not, he said.
“Certainly, it’s very clear that people can get distracted if they’re reading or trying to send text messages. Accidents caused by distracted driving are common, and texting is a leading cause,” Barnett said.
Bo Kidd, Buda Police Chief, said most people in law enforcement agree texting while driving has become a prevalent problem in recent years. Kidd said the department has seen many vehicle collisions as a result of texting while driving, or distracted driving due to an electronic device.
Since Jan. 1, Buda has issued 82 citations for texting while driving, Kidd said. In recent years, Buda Police Department has worked to incorporate the dangers of texting while driving during various public engagements they do throughout the year.
But Kidd mirrored Barnett in the difficulties that can arise in trying to police the new law.
“When you look at a vehicle coming by, it’s hard to see anything, period,” Kidd said. “And to be able to see someone manipulate their phone is something else.”
Increased traffic will also make the challenge of enforcing the law that much more difficult.
“Traffic in town is increasing exponentially, as it is all over Central Texas,” Barnett said. “We have a lot of new residents and visitors. With the increasing amount of vehicles on the roadway, it’s extremely important to focus on driving responsibly.”