Okay, this isn't really real estate-related, but it sure affects my real estate business.
Cities all over the United States have been debating and working to reduce or eliminate driving distractions caused by cell phones. Austin's newest restrictions became effective January 1, 2010:
City clarifies ban of texting, other wireless device use while driving
The short version is that a phone is only a phone (in the driver's case) while the vehicle is in motion. Dialing from an in-phone address book is permissible, as is texting while stopped at a traffic light or stop sign. Even GPS navigation systems that many of us have in our smart phones are out of bounds, unless the phone is "affixed to the vehicle."
As someone who spends much of my business day in my car, often talking on the phone, I absolutely recognize the need for this kind of caution. I have used a Bluetooth headset for years, and can't imagine using my phone any other way, even when I'm sitting in my office. I almost always dial from my address book, so that's not an issue. This year, I have added a phone mount to my dashboard so I believe I am legal when using my navigation system (but the phone rode quite comfortably in a drink hold before, and I even route the turn-by-turn directions to my headset). Texting is an obvious distraction, and although I have been guilty, I support this restriction.
Then again, eating a burger while driving between appointments can be at least equally hazardous. Chasing a fallen slice of tomato can certainly cause a swerve unless the driver is more disciplined than most.
So ... Austin and many places are taking steps to eliminate one source of distraction. In my estimation, enforcement is the issue, and I don't know how that happens until after the damage is done. We already have laws about erratic or reckless driving. After a car is pulled over, can an officer be sure what caused an unsafe lane change, or even a serious accident? I "get" what we're trying to accomplish here, but I'm not sure this really accomplishes the objective. That said, though, I am opposed to even more restrictive regulations.