Little Elm council members approved an ordinance on Tuesday banning the use of handheld devices while driving.
The ordinance was proposed and discussed at the Dec. 1 council meeting and brought back Tuesday as a complete written document. The council discussed potential issues, such as how to alert drivers of the ordinance, and other comments about the ban before unanimously voting to approve it.
Assistant Police Chief Greg Wilkerson said drivers in Little Elm are prevented from using their phones to make calls, send texts, play games, look at photos or use GPS. Bluetooth and dashboard mounts are encouraged, he said. If the person has an emergency, Wilkerson said they will likely be pardoned from a ticket if the other person on the line (such as a 9-1-1 dispatcher) can confirm they were speaking with the driver.
The ordinance provides a clause allowing law enforcement to issue warnings instead of tickets until Feb. 29, Wilkerson said, in order to educate the community and get the information out to those who are not aware of the ban.
“The goal is to achieve voluntary compliance,” Town Manager Matt Mueller said. “And the intent is not to make revenue but to discourage the practice.”
Because signage is not required under the ordinance, Councilman Chip Norman suggested the town place signs around town to help notify drivers of the ban. Mayor David Hillock suggested the signs read, “If you’re in our town, put it down.”
Mueller said the council would look into developing simple signs to prevent visual clutter. In the meantime, the Little Elm Police Department will be posting on its Facebook page and on other social media to educate drivers.
“We urge you to drive now and talk later,” the Texas Department of Transportation stated on its website. “If you must make a phone call, pull over. Otherwise, wait until you reach your destination to use the phone.