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Austin, San Antonio Drivers Prepare For Cellphone Bans

The new year brings some new laws in Texas, including a ban on handheld devices while driving in Austin and San Antonio.

Five stories that have North Texas talking: phone bans start soon for Austin and San Antonio drivers; part of Kyle Field implodes; could North Texas’ Scott Turner be the next Texas House speaker?; and more.

The new year brings some new laws in Texas, including a ban on handheld devices while driving in Austin and San Antonio. The ban starts in January, although police won’t start issuing fines until February. Talking on a handheld phone while driving is banned in 14 states and the District of Columbia, and all but a handful of states have made texting while driving illegal. Texas is among the states without a statewide texting while driving ban, though many cities have their own ordinances. Fines in San Antonio starting in February will be $200, the San Antonio Express-News reports.Violators in Austin will face fines up to $500. Distracted driving caused 459 deaths and 18,500 serious injuries on Texas roadways in 2013, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Those figures include cellphone use, talking to passengers, eating, grooming or even adjusting the radio. From 2010 to 2012, cellphones accounted for 5 to 7 percent of crashes caused by distraction. But the federal agency still notes that texting is "by far more the most alarming distraction.” [Associated Press/San Antonio Express-News]

  • GQ says some of the country’s craziest politicians are in Texas. The list includes several Republicans, such as U.S. Rep Joe Barton, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. There are some Democrats on the list, including U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. GQ said about Cruz: ‘Leans so far right that even fellow Republican John McCain classified him as a ‘wacko bird’; one of Cruz's supporters put the nickname on a hat, and he proudly displays it in his office.” Lee has said the Constitution is 400 years old. GQ also reports: “Made clear that her support for Obama extends to self-immolation, if necessary: ‘We will circle the president on fire. We will be on fire for rightness and justice.’”

  • Could North Texas’ Scott Turner be the next speaker of the Texas House? The Texas Tribune produced a lengthy profile on the former NFL player turned Tea Party Republican: “Turner is the latest Republican House member to vie to unseat House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican who has held the office since 2009. Like previous challengers, Turner has argued that Straus is not conservative enough to lead the House in deep-red Texas.” But more than 70 members of the 98-member House Republican Caucus back Straus. “Turner dismissed questions about his experience, arguing that Texans aren't being properly represented under Straus,” The Tribune reports. "It is what I think is necessary," Turner told The Tribune. "I think the House could benefit from a different kind of leadership.

  • When you’re heading to an ugly Christmas sweater party, the uglier the better. Some are finding the perfect outfit at a pop-up sweater store in East Dallas called the Ugly Christmas Sweater Shop. As KERA’s Eric Aasen reports: “They’re covered with birds and gingerbread men and evergreen trees. These are bad, folks. Definitely U-G-L-Y.” Store owner Jeremy Turner has sold 4,000 sweaters this year, generating more than $100,000. Last year, he opened up his store in a strip center on Mockingbird Lane. “Ugly is for everyone,” Turner says. “It doesn’t discriminate and the people of Dallas love ugly. I’m so glad, too.  … Come get ugly!” Read more here.

  • Part of Texas A&M University’s Kyle Field was imploded over the weekend. More than 5,000 fans watched as the west side of the stadium was imploded Sunday. The new-and-improved west side will include new suites, a Hall of Champions, and TV broadcast facilities. The redevelopment should be done in time for the 2015 football season. [Associated Press] Here’s the video:

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.