Sugar Land’s newly approved distracted driving ordinance took effect Monday.
The new law prohibits the use of portable electronic devices while driving a vehicle in Sugar Land unless the device is in hands-free mode or being used for an emergency.
Portable electronic devices include mobile phones, personal digital assistants, MP3s or other hand-held music players, electronic reading devices, laptop computers, pagers, electronic game devices and more. Wireless communication devices are defined in Texas Transportation Code (section 545.425).
Drivers will be issued only warnings during the first 90 days. Following the grace period, any person found guilty of violating the ordinance will be fined up to $500 for each offense. Community awareness activities will include media releases, social media, print materials, community meetings, signage and events.
City Council approved the distracted driving ordinance on Feb. 21 following an extensive education campaign and public review process.
The public was presented with the following three options:
- Divers may not text and drive, but phones may be held while driving to make phone calls;
- The operator of a motor vehicle may not use a portable electronic device while the vehicle is in motion – unless the device is in a hands free mode;
- No ordinance.
Citizens chose the second option.
The Texas Legislature is currently considering a number of bills related to the use of portable electronic devices while driving. The proposals prohibit texting and driving and allow cities to enact ordinances containing regulations more stringent than those proposed in the bills. Sugar Land’s new ordinance is consistent with those being considered by legislators.