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Austin driver receives two $500 texting fines within three hours

By Lynn Herrmann     Mar 24, 2010 in Technology
The world of technology has brought with it a crash course in the school of hard knocks for an Austin, Texas driver. Two months after a texting while driving ban went into effect, some drivers still seem unaware of its severity.
When stopped at a red light, the law allows texting, checking emails, or changing songs on a cell phone. However, moving vehicles fall under rules of the new ordinance.
KXAN reports that on Saturday, Mark Halsell was texting while driving and received his first ticket of the day. "I was driving on South Congress Street Bridge, and I really was text messaging someone,” said Halsell.
"My friends were like oh that’s a $500 ticket,” said Halsell. “I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me,' so I looked it up and sure enough it was $500 so I read the other parameters around it."
Three hours later he received his second texting while driving ticket. "I was sitting at South First and Cesar Chavez next to a police officer, and I changed a song on my iphone,” said Halsell. He was stopped at a traffic light, aware of the police officer beside him.
Having just researched the new law, he believed he was within his rights to change a song while at a light. The officer, after listening to Halsell explain the law, refused to budge and issued the ticket.
Commander Stephen Baker of the APD, says it sounds like the officer is wrong in this case, and there’s no excuse. "We've sent out several training ordinances to the officers specifically listing the ordinance and given basic guidelines when and when not to issue citations,” said Baker.
Confusion stems from the fact that the new law still allows dialing and talking on the phone while driving. “I was sitting at a red light, and I wasn't really distracted,” said Halsell. “It was a second to switch to the next song. If you are operating your radio or climate control buttons it’s just as distracting in my opinion."
APD said the goal is to stop Austinites from texting while driving. To date, 12 tickets have been issued to Austin drivers for violating the law. Money received from the $500 fines goes into Austin’s general fund.
"It's a lesson learned, I’m just going to pay it,” said Halsell. “Unfortunately, I mean, a thousand dollars is a lot of money."
More about Austin texas, Texting while driving, Austin police department
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