Austin City Council Hates Your iPhone

The Austin City Council is poised to take action tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 22) that will make our city the laughing stock of the interwebs.

The issue is agenda item 28 at tomorrow's City Council meeting:

The action is to pass an ordinance that they are calling a "texting while driving" ban. Except that's not what it is.

The Council is considering a total ban on any use of cellular data while driving, no matter how innocuous or harmless. Rather than ban dangerous behavior (say, typing on a keyboard while driving), this ordinance simply bans anything to do with cellular data.

If you download driving instructions to your phone before leaving home and glance at them while the car is in motion, you've broken this law. Under this law, the address that you'd scrawl on a piece of paper somehow becomes a driving hazard if it's on your phone.

If you look at the time on your phone and have a wallpaper that you downloaded across the mobile internet, you've broken this law. Under this law, information becomes a driving hazard merely because its transmitted by cellular network.

If you use voice-to-text functions to dictate an SMS, you've broken this law. You've created an electronic message and that will be prohibited.

Even if you keep both hands on the wheel and attention on the road at all times, if you interact with mobile cellular data in almost any fashion, then you've broken this law. How stupid is that?

The ordinance is poorly written, overly broad, and just doesn't have the facts behind it.

Yes, the ordinance is bad, but the way it's being done is even worse. Council is trying to ram this through without public review. The language was finished only a week ago. It was released to the press with misleading headlines that downplay the scope of the ban. Council is refusing to allow this to come before citizen boards and commissions for review and input.

This thing is on a fast track to be done before anybody realizes what's happened.

Can you please take 3 minutes right now and ask them to postpone action on the cellular device ban?

Do it here:


Comments have been closed for this entry.



DONE! Thanks for bringing

DONE! Thanks for bringing this to our attention, I do hope they postpone it until it is thought out properly.

Pass it

I agree with the council. Phone distraction of any kind removes focus from the road. Too many people are getting killed.

Bad law, only applied to persecute

I listen to music that is streamed over the phone network, it'd be breaking this law. That's patently stupid.

This makes GPS illegal if the data comes over the cellular network, but OK if it's stored on board the device.

Onstar data and interaction would be illegal if it uses the cellular network.

One thought

While I think the ordinance is flawed, I disagree with defending the right to look at phones while driving just because we also can't enforce looking at scraps of paper. I'd willingly accept a result where nobody can screw with their phones and the fraction of those people who were really using the phone for directions are then looking at a map or a piece of paper - overall safety would go up dramatically under that scenario.

Ideal for me would be a complete ban on phone use, a la New Jersey. Otherwise, the "race to the bottom" ensures that even guys like me who violently resist talking while driving end up having to field calls because everybody else does, and you look like a jerk to your workmates and family if you won't pick up while driving.