In just a few weeks, Denton could become the latest North Texas city to take a hard stand against distracted driving.
On Wednesday morning, city staff officially added a “Hands-Free” ordinance to the Nov. 1 city council agenda, at which point the council could vote it into local law.
Denton already has an electronic messaging while driving ban on the books, but this ordinance would expand that to ban any use of a handheld device behind the wheel including texting, talking and in-hand GPS use.
The council began considering the expansion over the summer as the current ban turned two-years-old.
At that point, Denton police reported only 39 tickets being written for texting and driving since the original ordinance went into effect in May 2014.
Originally Denton leaders had considered an all-out device ban, but stopped short at the time.
In just the past year, though several neighboring communities, including Little Elm, Argyle and Lake Dallas, have all taken the hard stand against distracted driving leaving many in Denton wondering if the time is right to do the same.
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The city Traffic Safety Committee has recommended taking the step and during Tuesday night’s meeting, Denton Police presented new figures showing 191 distraction-related driving accidents since 2014 and 70 crashes where a phone had been a likely factor.
The Denton Record Chronicle reports a split council on the matter so far though and that Councilmember Keely Briggs could be the swing vote on Nov. 1.
Since the topic first came up, many citizens have expressed the same split feelings.
While several residents said they saw a need to take action against distractions while driving, many wondered if the current ordinance or a hands-free ordinance would make a difference in the fight.
"I think it might help in some ways, but you can't always stop everyone,” said Denton student Victor Amajor.
Several residents, especially some who were new to the area, said that despite signs posted throughout the city, they didn’t even know there were distracted driving rules in Denton.
Currently Texas is one of only four states without a state-wide texting while driving ban.