San Antonio OKs handheld cell phone ban

alamo in san antonioSan Antonio, the second-largest city in Texas, has outlawed use of handheld cell phones, effective Jan. 1.

The city joins Austin, whose ban on the wireless communications devices also goes into effect with the new year.

The moves come as chances for enhanced statewide distracted driving laws took a blow with the Nov. 4 election. Governor-elect Greg Abbott shares the current governor’s dislike of efforts to “micromanage” electronic communications device use by the state’s adult drivers.

San Antonio’s ban comes with a fine of up to $200 after a 30-day grace period. The city plans an education campaign dubbed “Keep ’em on the Wheel, San Antonio.” The city amended its current distracted driving ordinance, which outlaws cell phone use by drivers in school zones.

Under the new San Antonio law, motorists are barred from holding the devices to make phone calls, text, use email, access the Internet, play games as well as “other use of the device.” Unlike the Austin ordinance, drivers are barred from using smartphones and similar devices while temporarily stopped in traffic, as in at a red light.

Texas, which places no restrictions on adult drivers’ use of personal electronics, does bar drivers under age 18 from using wireless communications devices. It is among the dwindling numbers of states without a texting ban affecting all motorists.

San Antonio Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales of District 5 said the local law should bar all uses of cell phones, handheld or not. Only a handful of U.S. cities have such a restriction.

District 10 Councilman Mike Gallagher said he proposed the ban because police told him distracted driving is now “the major cause of accidents” in the city.

Austin’s distracted driving laws expand to almost all uses of handheld cell phones come Jan. 1. The unanimous City Council vote of Aug. 28 followed the recommendations of a study group, which argued that police find it difficult to determine if drivers are texting — which is against current local law — or dialing a phone number, which is not. San Antonio police echoed those complaints.

Read more about distracted driving in Texas:


  1. Soon enough, we are going to find out that this is all going to come down to the fact that we are all distracted BEFORE we even step into the car. If you’re distracted or getting into a wreck because of a phone, you weren’t a very good driver to begin with. That’s all there is to it.

  2. Audrey Orozco says:

    I think this law is needed, but what I don’t understand is why it only applies to smartphones. Why not holding a taco, or a burger, or a drink, or a cigarette. What about people having a conversation in the front seat that keep looking at each other as they talk, isn’t that distracted driving too? Just saying

    • Studies show having a front-seat passenger actually increases driver alertness and is safer than solo, presumably because this provides another pair of eyes on the road. Unaware of any taco studies. Thanks for commenting …

  3. It all about insurance companies lobbyist pushing for all the micromanaging laws we have so shareholders profit more, make no mistake no one cares if you draw your next breath. It’s corporate America. We will soon have more freedoms if we were a dictatorship. Vote in some more like them America!!!

  4. I use the cell for many business platforms just like any peace officer using a vehicle, utility worker, or any business person whose office is in their vehicle their whole shift. I have never been too distracted to drive and always very aware of my surroundings. I have seen other drivers who are not as alert on their electronic devices. I have also seen people who were talking to other persons next to them in their own vehicles with the same distractions and they are not on the electronic devices at all.

    I don’t believe that it is fair that everyone has to have this disadvantage because of others. The road is a dangerous place and there are many reasons why. I can see the fairness of hands free only because it is very handy, but all this talk about no cell phones at all while driving will drive down commerce. there is a high percentage of people who does business while driving. This includes our law enforcement pretty much all contractors (lord knows companies don’t hire in-house anymore). electronic communication in our vehicles has evolved to more of a necessity then a privilege.

  5. Gerardo Nieto says:

    Absolutely outstanding display of good old-fashioned common sense — after all driving is a privilege handed to individuals lawfully … being a danger to the community, however, is not lawful! Drivers before hitting the road TCB on your driveway or in the parking lot or at your destination. “Keep your thoughts in your head not on your hand” — wow! pitchy!

  6. Al Cinamon says:

    Why do cities and states continue to ignore the fact that there is no difference in risk between hand-held and hands-free phones? A new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (a affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) examined claims for crash damage in three states (New York, Connecticut and California) and the District of Columbia before and after hand-held bans took effect and found NO REDUCTION IN CRASHES.

    I can only conclude that it’s all about money and not safety! As the National Safety Council points out: “Hands Free is NOT Risk Free”

Post a comment, join the conversation