Unanimous interest among city council regarding hands-free ordinance council

By: 

News Reporter

City council members expressed interest in passing a hands-free ordinance for San Marcos last night.

Chief of San Marcos Police Department Chase Stapp presented two models of the potential hands-free ordinance to city council at Tuesday’s meeting.

San Marcos is the only city on I-35 between San Antonio and Austin without an ordinance enforcing “hands-free “driving. Ordinances restricting phone use exist in nearby cities Austin, Buda, Kyle, Schertz and New Braunfels.

“To use a phone (while driving) is defined as any activity that requires you to have the device in your hand,” Stapp said.

Austin and Buda ordinances permit the use of devices when vehicles are parked or stopped at a red light or train, Stapp said.

New Braunfels, Kyle, and Schertz ordinances only permit the use of devices when the vehicle is parked legally, he said.  

The City of Kyle uses a tiered system for fine offenders, starting with a $100 minimum for first offenders and $500 maximum, Stapp said. Buda and Schertz issue fixed fines.

City Manager Jared Miller said some of the ordinances prohibit use in vehicles alone and do not extend to bicycles.

“I can’t believe it when I see it,” said Councilman John Thomaides, Place 3. "What other incidents are cyclists in danger of injuring anyone but themselves?"

Stapp said collisions with cyclists aren’t a regular occurrence, but some are related to texting and cycling.

Council members expressed a consensus to further discuss an ordinance for San Marcos similar to Austin and Buda’s.  

“I am here to applaud you for having on the agenda the discussion of the hands-free driving ordinance,” said Paige Bishop, San Marcos resident. “I wanted to present it to you to be put on the agenda—you beat me to it. “

During the citizen comment period, Bishop said she would support a hands-free ordinance.

“It seems like San Marcos might need it the most because of the high population of students who are constantly on their electric devices," Bishop said.  “I’m here to support having a discussion on it and would love to see one pass.”