Put That Phone Down!

Driving is dangerous. Sure, we all feel in control when we get behind the wheel, but there’s no denying that cars and trucks cause thousands of motorist, pedestrian, and cyclist deaths each year, and billions of dollars in economic harm. In fact, according the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. residents ages 5 to 34.Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 12.27.48 PM

A big part of the danger comes from distracted driving – any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the road. A study by the University of Utah comparing cell-phone drivers with drunk drivers found that “cell-phone drivers exhibited greater impairment than intoxicated drivers.”

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce those numbers and make the streets safer, and Austin has just put one new safety measure into effect. The City has prohibited motorists and cyclists from using any electronic hand-held device while operating a vehicle (including a bicycle) starting January 1. That means unless you’re using a hands-free system like Bluetooth or headphones, you cannot talk or text on a cell phone while driving or cycling.

Drivers and cyclists should note that the ban also includes devices like MP3 players, GPS systems, personal digital assistants, and for those who still use them, pagers.

So if you’re one of those commuters who likes to glance at a map or answer a quick call while you’re driving or cycling, be aware that you could now face a hefty fine for doing so – up to $500.

 

image via Creative Commons

 

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