August 28, 2014 the Austin City Council passed an ordinance that prohibits the use of portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle or bicycle (Ordinance No. 20140828-041). The new ordinance will go into effect Jan. 1, 2015.
Unless using a hands-free system such as Bluetooth or headphones, or an affixed GPS system, use of portable devices while moving in a car or on a bike will be a citable offense.
Portable electronic device means a hand-held, mobile telephone, personal digital assistant, MP3 or other hand-held music player, electronic reading device, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, GPS or navigation system, electronic gaming device or portable computing device.
Hand held cell phone use is permitted in the event of an emergency such calling 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 to report a crime or an accident. Even in an emergency situation, it is best to pull over and come to a complete stop before using or operating any mobile or hand held device.
Violation of this ordinance will be a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, beginning in January 2015.
In preparation for enforcement to begin in January, the Austin Police Department, the Austin Transportation Department, and the Communications and Public Information Office will be working together with regional partners to encourage people to recognize the change in the law.