The Texas Legislature wrapped up their business earlier this year with 4 new laws all Texas drivers need to know about. The laws are intended to save lives and make our road ways safer for drivers and our kids. All of them went into effect on September 1.
Fleeing an Accident Scene: There’s been a growing trend across the Texas where drivers involved in a deadly accident have left the scene before police arrived. Those fleeing usually did so because they were driving while intoxicated. It turns out the fine for leaving an accident scene was less costly than being arrested for intoxicated manslaughter.
The law’s been changed so that the penalty for leaving an accident scene where someone was injured or killed is the same as intoxicated manslaughter. The penalty for either incident is 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Lawmakers and police departments hope the tougher penalties will influence drivers to remain on the scene, especially if it involved hitting a pedestrian. If you’ve already made one mistake, it will only get worse if you add to it with a second one. Hopefully each of us would stop and assist an injured person even if the best we could do at that moment is call 911.
Cell Phones and Schools: It’s been illegal to use a cell phone while driving through an active school zone, unless the car is stopped or the driver is using a hands free device for several years. The new law expands the ban of cell phone usage to all school property including drop off lanes and parking lots, unless the car is stopped, or the driver is using a hands free device, or making an emergency call.
The penalty is a fine of up to $200 for a violation. The goal is to focus driver attention and make our kids safer as they go to or leave school. Personally, I think this should apply to vehicles that are stopped as well as to hands free usage. We’re slowly moving in the right direction.
Passing School Buses: Passing a school bus with flashing lights and an activated stop sign has been illegal for years. Dallas County began using motion activated cameras last year to catch people passing stopped school buses.
The penalty for passing a stopped school bus has been raised to a range of $500 to $1,250 if pulled over by a law enforcement officer or $300 in civil penalties if caught by a stop arm camera.
Move Over for TxDOT Vehicles: I wrote about this revision to the Texas Move Over law a couple of weeks ago. The law which was written to originally protect police officers and other First Responders was expanded to include tow truck operators in 2011 and TxDOT vehicles this year. If you see any of the above vehicles on the side of a Texas roadway or highway, drivers must either slow down to a speed 20mph lower than the posted speed or move over one lane. Those who don’t can receive a fine of up to $2,000.
Do you have a law you’d like to see passed for Texas drivers? Share them with us, along with your comments, experiences, and questions in the comments section of our blog, or on our Facebook and Google +. I’d love to hear from you!