On Dec. 17 the Austin City Council unanimously approved a revision of an ordinance billed as a ban on texting while driving. The new ordinance, which goes into effect Jan 1., would make it illegal for drivers to use a wireless communication device for purposes other than making a phone call, with a few exceptions.
The signs have been up for months in some Tarrant County cities, warning drivers that cellphones and school zones don�t mix. But hundreds have learned the hard way by paying up to $200 in fines.
Since a state law intended to decrease driver distraction took effect Sept. 1, Fort Worth police have issued at least 400 citations to drivers for talking on their cellphones in school zones. Grapevine police have ticketed 88 drivers.
When its legislature convenes this year, Kansas will consider banning motorists from sending text messages. South Carolina will, too, and debate whether to prohibit drivers from using phones altogether, or requiring them to use hands-free devices when they call. New Jersey lawmakers have proposed banning drivers from manipulating a navigation system in a moving car.
Sending or receiving text messages while driving may soon be illegal in Nebraska. State Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff introduced a bill (LB945) Thursday to ban texting while driving. It would bring Nebraska in line with 19 other states and the District of Columbia.
But there is another growing problem caused by lower-stakes multitasking - distracted walking - which combines a pedestrian, an electronic device and an unseen crack in the sidewalk, the pole of a stop sign, a toy left on the living room floor or a parked (or sometimes moving) car.
The era of the mobile gadget is making mobility that much more perilous, particularly on crowded streets and in downtown areas where multiple multitaskers veer and swerve and walk to the beat of their own devices.
They are the most wired vehicles on the road, with dashboard computers, sophisticated radios, navigation systems and cellphones.
In a city like New York, gadgets are an extra distraction. Paramedics aren't supposed to use GPS devices while driving, but they do. While such gadgets are widely seen as distractions to be avoided behind the wheel, there are hundreds of thousands of drivers - police officers and paramedics - who are required to use them, sometimes at high speeds, while weaving through traffic, sirens blaring.
The drivers say the technology is a huge boon for their jobs, saving valuable seconds and providing instant access to essential information. But it also presents a clear risk - even the potential to take a life while they are trying to save one.
Cars use lights, bells and buzzers to remind drivers to fasten their seat belts as they start their engines.
It would seem natural, then, to offer motorists friendly yet stern warnings about another bad habit: holding a cell phone while driving, whether for texting or talking.
Several software and gadget companies - many at the country's biggest trade show for the wireless industry last week in Las Vegas - have sprung up to address that challenge. But creating an effective, widespread solution looks a lot harder than putting in reminders for seat belts.
In a new study, psychologists have identified a group of people who can successfully do two things at once, in this case talking on a cell phone while operating a driving simulator without noticeable impairment.
Supertaskers only make up about 2.5 percent of the general population, however, said study team member James Watson of the University of Utah.