Tickets for breaking hands-free law starts today

The "hands-free" ordinance has been in effect since the first of the year but for the past month officers have been handing out warnings to get drivers used to this big change.
  
Sunday is the first day of actual ticketing and it's the beginning of a Hands-Free Traffic Safety Initiative that will run for the next month.  So we took a ride with the Austin Police Department to see how enforcement is going.

As Senior Police Officer James Starnes started his patrol Sunday afternoon with Fox 7 along for the ride, he told us he would be looking for drivers not being attentive, swerving, braking and making unsafe lane movements.

"Not all of which necessarily give us reasonable suspicion to think that they've got a phone in their hand but it's a clue it's a...[to] kind of perk our ears up and figure out what it is they're actually doing," Starnes said.

Tickets will set you back up to $500 -- a Class C Misdemeanor.
  
Officers will be on the lookout for drivers making calls either with a phone to their ear or holding it while using the speaker phone.
  
Sending text messages, e-mails, making changes to the GPS settings or just holding a cell phone in general -- all against the law.

"If you're moving and you're on an electronic device...phone, GPS or whatever it is that's in your hand, at that point then you are in violation," Starnes said.

Officer Starnes says he hasn't seen many violators since January 1, but it wasn't long before some were spotted.

Jessica Whitefield was pulled over for having her phone up to her ear.  She says she didn't know about the new ordinance.

"No I didn't.  So I guess I'll have to find a Bluetooth or something somewhere," Whitefield said.  "Me personally, I don't see much of a problem with calling and being on the phone or whatever like that but texting and driving, I think that's a big problem."

Jonathan Johnston was on the phone ordering food for a Super Bowl party when he got pulled over.

"Yeah on my phone and...won't do it again," Johnston said.

Johnston thinks the ordinance is for the best.

"I definitely agree with the law, it's a good law.  It's unfortunate that this happened but I've learned from it and I'm sure people will see stories like this and it'll happen to their friends and people will stop being on the phone, it's a good law," he said.

Of the three drivers pulled over Sunday afternoon, only one was given a citation.

Just warnings for Johnston and Whitefield.

There are some exemptions to 'hands-free.'  Of course you can use your hands to dial 911 if you need to.
  
And you can still make calls at red lights.




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