Local Laws & Regulations For Newcomers

Posted by on Jul 6, 2016 in Writing | No Comments

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DRIVING RULES

The City of Austin has a couple of special laws and regulations about what you should and should not do while driving.

HANDS FREE ORDINANCE

In Austin using a mobile device while driving or riding a bicycle is illegal and subject to a fine.  This means that using a cell phone, computer, tablet or any similarly distracting piece of technology is against the rules. This applies to the use of normal telephone features as well as GPS navigation and music.

If you rely on your phone to navigate the city you may still use dash mounted device holders just as long as you aren’t manipulating them while you are in motion.

There is more information here and here is a link to the official ordinance.

YIELD TO EMERGENCY VEHICLES

Everyone knows that you need to move to the shoulder and allow emergency vehicles to pass if they are trying to get through traffic behind you.  In Austin there are also rules for what you should do when driving past stopped emergency vehicles.

Officially, you must either reduce your driving speed by 20mph of the signed speed limit and/or move over a lane.  This protects emergency responders and our police force as well as anyone else on the shoulder.

LOCAL RULES AND RESTRICTIONS

These are a couple of things that you probably aren’t aware of if you are new to Central Texas.

WATERING RESTRICTIONS

During the summer in Central Texas it is common for the city to issue water restrictions to keep our water reserves in Lake Buchanan, Travis, and Town Lake. The various conservation stages are as follows:

  • Conservation Stage: Twice/week with hose-end sprinkler, once/week with automatic systems (may use hose-end on second day). Car washing with bucket and/or hose with automatic shut-off nozzle.
  • Stage 1: Same as Conservation Stage but with reduced times for irrigation.
  • Stage 2: All customers on a one day per week watering schedule, with stricter time limitations. Car washing allowed with a bucket only.
  • Stage 3: All customers on a one day per week schedule with stricter time limitations. Car washing allowed with a bucket only.
  • Stage 4: Emergency response stage, no outdoor irrigation allowed.

You can always view the current watering restrictions here.

This is a great document about the various factors that contribute to the current water conservation stage.

FIRE SAFETY

Texas is particularly prone to wildfires with our high heat and low rainfall during the months of June and July.  It is important to know when burn bans are in effect and to adhere to the rules for that.

If you are planning on building a new home or adding a porch or additional living space to an existing home there are some things that you should be aware of as well.  You can read more here.

OAK WILT

Central Texas has a unique plant disease that you should know about and it’s called Oak Wilt.  Oak Wilt is caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum and is a destructive disease affecting live oaks and red oaks in Central Texas.  This fungus can spread from tree to tree through roots or by beetles moving spores between trees.  Your trees will become vulnerable to infection when your oaks have new, open wounds like when you are pruning off unsightly branches.

More information about Oak Wilt is available here.

AREA CODE

The last thing that comes to mind is that you must use an area code when trying to call people in Austin.  In 2013 the city officially ran out of 512 phone numbers and added a second area code 737 to the area.  If you try to dial without an area code then you will most likely be asked to re-dial whoever you are attempting to contact.

Is there anything that I missed?  Let me know in the comments section below.