Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe, of the Denton Record-Chronicle, has recently reported motorists may no longer hold their cellphones while driving in Denton.
She reports: “After more than nine months of debate and compromises, the Denton City Council agreed 6-1 to ban drivers from using handheld devices behind the wheel.
Council member Sara Bagheri cast the only opposing vote in a decision that came after an hour of public testimony and debate Tuesday night.
Denton joins a growing chorus of cities that are banning handheld devices behind the wheel to combat distracted driving in Texas.
Locally, Argyle, Lake Dallas and Little Elm have adopted such bans.
Council member Keely Briggs was among the four who initially resisted the call for a tougher ordinance, but agreed the step was needed.
Before casting her vote, she read a prepared statement about her change of heart, citing the need for better public safety.
“People are not doing the right thing,” Briggs said.
Denton resident James Shaffer testified again to the need for the ban. His wife and daughter were killed in a head-on car collision April 9.
Investigators ruled the other driver, Ashli Morgan, who was also killed along with her 4-year-old daughter, had been distracted by her cellphone at the time of the wreck.
He told city leaders he really couldn’t understand the need for some of the exceptions in the ordinance.
“Your hands need to be free when you are driving,” Shaffer said.
Currently, Denton bans drivers from texting while behind the wheel.
The Denton Police Department has cited drivers for texting and driving. But Police Chief Lee Howell told the City Council that the current ordinance has proved difficult for officers to enforce.
With the new ordinance, an officer can now pull someone over if the officer observes the driver simply holding a wireless device.
The ordinance still allows drivers to use the hands-free features found in newer cars and trucks.
It also allows drivers with older cars and trucks to set up their cellphones in hands-free mode.
Mayor Chris Watts helped draft the final compromise, which has an exception to allow drivers to operate their hands-free device when their vehicle is stopped, such as at a stoplight.
Some devices and set-ups are not truly hands-free and require one touch to answer or terminate a call.
Violating the new ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor, which can bring up to a $500 fine.
The ordinance becomes effective on June 1.”