Little Elm’s Distracted Driving Ordinance
If you drive in or near the city of Little Elm, Texas you need to be aware of an amendment to one of its city ordinances making it a violation to even hold your wireless device in your hand while in your vehicle. One of the obvious goal of the amended ordinance is to reduce auto accidents and injuries. If you are using a hand-help wireless communication device, while operating a motor vehicle, to do any of the following, you are in violation of the ordinance:
- Engage in a call;
- Send, read or write a text message;
- Take or view pictures or written text whether transmitted by internet or other electronic means, or access or view an internet website or software application;
- Engage in gaming; or
- Engage in any other use of the device while operating a motor vehicle. This includes holding the hand-held wireless communication device.
You are operating a motor vehicle if your vehicle is moving, stopped or standing on a public street, highway or right-of-way, unless it is lawfully parked. Lawfully parked does not mean stopped at a stop sign or other traffic control device, stopped in a lane of traffic because of roadway conditions, or traffic congestion.
The ordinance allows for use of wireless devices only through hands-free wireless communications device, such as a Bluetooth® device or speakerphone. Driver’s hands need to be on the wheel and not on their phone.
What happens if you need to use your phone for an emergency? The ordinance lists what are called “affirmative defenses” to being prosecuted under this law for using your hand-held wireless device.
- You are reporting illegal activity to a law enforcement agency;
- You are communicating with an emergency response operator, a fire department, a law enforcement agency, a hospital, a physician’s office, or a health clinic regarding a medical or other emergency situation; or
- You reasonably believe that a person’s life or safety is in immediate danger.
Numerous towns throughout the State of Texas have the same or similar ordinances, while some cities may have none. It would be a shot in the dark to guess what ordinance is or is not in place as you drive through several small cities taking your kids to and from sporting events, going to work, traveling to an important meeting, or other activities. Using your cell phone while driving is a distraction that can lead to catastrophic events including automobile accidents involving a single car, multiple cars, and/or pedestrians or bicyclists, all of which can involve anywhere from one to dozens of victims. Regardless of the town you are driving in, it stands to reason that you can lessen your chances of a catastrophic event by simply putting the phone away while driving your vehicle.
While we all get in a hurry from time to time, there is an obvious place to use your cell phone, tablet, or other hand-held device, and the time is not when you are driving your vehicle. The ordinance should be applauded in its efforts to make the citizens and visitors of its town safer while on the roads and reduce auto accidents. Needless to say, if you live, work, visit, or do business in Little Elm, you will have until March 1, 2016 to get it right before you will no longer be issued warning citations for violations of this ordinance. The entire ordinance can be viewed at https://www.municode.com/library/tx/little_elm/codes/code_of_ordinances.
If you or someone you know has suffered personal injury as a result of someone else’s distracted driving, call our office for a free consultation today.
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