Jacksonville among first in East Texas to ban texting while driving

Published on Wednesday, 13 January 2016 15:42 - Written by CORY MCCOY, comccoy@tylerpaper.com

Jacksonville on Tuesday became one of the first cities in East Texas to ban texting while driving.

Tuesday the Jacksonville City Council unanimously voted to establish law banning texting and driving with fines of up to $500.

“You can still talk on a cellphone using your hands, but nothing else,” Mayor Dick Stone said. “No texting. No checking email. If you’re driving with your phone in your hand, you need to be talking.”

The next step will see Jacksonville posting new ordinance signs at entrances to the city and other efforts to help education residents of the new law. 

“Once those signs are up, (police will) start enforcing it, and if they see someone at a stop light texting away, they’ll pull them over and issue a citation,” Stone said.

The idea for the ordinance was brought to the City Council by the Jacksonville Police Department officials, who researched similar laws around the state.

“Chief Reece Daniel reached out to other cities,” Stone said. “I think the main deal is to be proactive and not wait until someone isn’t paying attention and runs over someone.”

Daniel and his team studied other hands-free laws before submitting their proposal.

Fewer than 40 cities statewide have ordinances prohibiting or restricting cellphone use while driving, according to the Texas Department of Transportation’s website.

The nearest city to Jacksonville restricting cellphone use is Nacogdoches.

There also has been efforts on the state level to prohibit cellphone use while driving. Last May, House Bill 80 was defeated in the Senate. The bill would have prohibited the use of portable wireless technology while operating a motor vehicle.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory