The City of San Antonio might have found a new, if unwanted revenue stream. One year after City Council adopted the hands-free driving ordinance, San Antonio drivers continue to text, make calls and shift their eyes from the road to their smart phone screens while behind the wheel and moving in traffic. Between Feb.1 and Dec. 31, police issued 12,149 citations and 4,053 warnings to distracted drivers.
Each violation brings drivers a $200 fine, but that isn’t stopping a lot of people from ignoring the ordinance, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told members of a City Council public safety committee on Tuesday. The ordinance has cost drivers $1.2 million in fines in less than a full year of enforcement.
“I think it behooves everyone to put down the phone and just drive or use their hands-free device,” said Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D4), who chairs the Criminal Justice, Public Safety and Service Committee.
The number of crashes in San Antonio caused by distracted driving jumped from 251 in 2014 to 320 in 2015. The increase is likely attributed to TxDOT expanding the number of “distracted driving” contributing factors from 2 to 5 , McManus said. Factors include texting, talking and reading while driving.
“It’s very difficult (to track cell-phone related crashes) when there’s been such a proliferation of cell phone use in our society,” said Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10), a committee member. “What happened just two years ago can’t really relate to now.”
The City also has developed a signage project to warn drivers of the cell phone ban as they enter San Antonio. Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh said that distracted driving crashes would be discussed at City’s Council’s ‘B’ session next Wednesday.
*Top image: Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ricardo Velasquez.