Denton's Distracted Driving

On December 6th, the Denton City Council voted six to one on banning drivers from using handheld communication devices for any purpose while operating a motor vehicle. Previously, the original Ordinance 2014-112 banned the use of handheld devices for the purposes of texting while driving. According the Denton Record Chronicle, any driver found violating this ordinance is committing a Class C Misdemeanor, which may result in a fine of up to $500. 

In a brief statement provided to The Dentonite, City Council member Dalton Gregory reflected that he hoped the city would of passed the current ordinance several years ago. However, the majority of the city council members at that time were only willing to ban texting on Denton roads at the time. Gregory believes that the amended ordinance will contribute to creating safer roads in Denton. 

“If people need to read phone messages, type messages, or dial numbers by hand, then it is easy and so much safer to get out of the flow of traffic, stop, and then use the phone,” Gregory explained. “It is such a small inconvenience, yet so much safer for everyone on the road.” 

On a meeting agenda provided online by the Denton City Council, the amended ordinance states that “an operator of a vehicle may not use a wireless communication device for any purpose while operating a moving vehicle on any street or highway within the City of Denton, unless employing a hands-free device.” The new law further specifies that Denton drivers may use their handheld devices if the vehicle is stopped, or if the vehicle is being used as a GPS.

However, not all members of the City Council were in firm agreement regarding the ban. Council member Sara Bagheri voted against the proposal, arguing that current data doesn’t support the conclusion that bans on cellular devices prevent injuries in motor vehicle related accidents. 

“In some places,” Bagheri said, “bans on handheld devices are followed by increases in accidents attributable to cellphone use in the car.” 

Bagheri also addressed the possibility of the law having a disproportionate impact on minority citizens. 

“Most people who use their phones in the car are 18 to 24, and that group of people is far more likely to be minorities than people over 24,” she said. 

The amended ordinance will take full affect on June 1st, 2017.

Header image design by Brittany Keeton