- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Austin police say it’s still too early to determine the full impact the city’s ban on cellphone use while driving is having on traffic crashes.

Police Chief of Staff Brian Manley said that’s largely because it’s difficult to tell which crashes are actually caused by distracted driving. Unless a witness or driver reports that a crash involved a cellphone, Manley said there’s no way to know whether using the device was to blame.

The city’s hands-free law was enacted in January, the Austin American-Statesman (https://atxne.ws/1IpG1Sk ) reported.

This year has seen an increase in overall crashes during its first six months, compared to the same period in 2014, but relatively few of the wrecks so far this year were cellphone-related. According to the Austin Police Department, only 48 crashes this year reportedly involved a cellphone. Many more fatal crashes were caused by intoxicated driving - 1,033 this year involved alcohol.

Although more than 2,600 citations have been issued since the hands-free policy went into effect, the number suggests that using electronic devices while driving is still a problem, Manley said.

Manley said police will continue to focus on enforcement and education about the law. For the policy to succeed in making roads safer, he said the community needs to realize the dangers of distracted driving.

“Success may be apparent when you can drive in the city and look to your left and look to your right and not see motorists actively using their hand-held devices,” Manley said. “And as a city, we are not there yet.”

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, https://www.statesman.com

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