As of September 1, 2013, several new traffic and driving laws went into effect in Texas. It is important for all Texans to become acquainted with the new laws, as individuals who break these laws may face fines, or even prison time. Fortunately, although the laws became effective September 1, 2013, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers are offering a grace period for most of the laws until January 1, 2014 to make sure everyone is aware of the new and amended laws.
The Texas Department of Transportation believes the new laws will provide added protection for people on Texas roadways. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the fatality rate on Texas roadways in 2012 was 1.41 deaths per hundred million vehicle miles traveled -a 9.3% increase from 2011. In addition, the State of Texas also recently experienced an increase in the number of motor vehicle traffic fatalities. Specifically, the 2012 death toll of 3,399 was an increase of 10.82% from the 3,067 deaths in 2011.
Some new laws for which Texans should be aware include the following:
• Cell Phones in School Zones (HB 347): While Texas already prohibits cell phone use behind the wheel in school zones unless the vehicle is stopped or a hands-free device is being used, the new law expands the limitation to include all school property, including parking lots and drop off lanes. Violators of the law will be assessed fines up to $200. Notably, cell phone use is only restricted during the time a reduced speed limit is in effect, generally, directly before and directly after the school day.
• Passing a School Bus (HB 1174): This amendment increases the minimum and maximum fines for the misdemeanor offense of passing a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading children. The minimum fine increases from $200 to $500 and the maximum fine increases from $1,000 to $1,250. The bill also enhances the penalty for a subsequent conviction of the offense within 5 years. Individuals guilty of multiple violations of this law can now be punished by a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum fine of $2,000.
• Hit & Run (SB 275): As previously mentioned on this blog, SB 275 increases the penalty for leaving the scene of a car accident resulting in a fatality and failing to render. In fact, hit-and-run fatality crashes now carry the same penalty as intoxication manslaughter–up to 20 years in prison (as opposed to the previous maximum prison term of 10 years).
• Individual’s Responsibilities Following an Accident (HB 3668): In addition to other existing statutory requirements, the amended law now requires the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that results, or is reasonably like to result, in the injury or death of a person to immediately determine whether any person involved in the accident requires aid.
• Move Over (SB 510): In addition to being required to move over or slow down for police, fire, emergency vehicles, and tow trucks, Texas drivers are now required to move over one lane or slow down to 20 miles below the speed limit for Texas Department of Transportation Vehicles with flashing lights as well. Punishment for violations of the law varies depending on whether property damage and/or bodily harm occur as a result of the violation.
• Drawing Blood at the Scene of Possible DWI Crash (HB 434): Paramedics at the scene of a crash may now draw blood from the driver of a vehicle if the police officer at the scene believes alcohol or other intoxicating substances were a factor in the crash.
These laws are intended to protect Texans traveling on Texas roadways. Unfortunately, not all safety laws are followed, leading to many auto accidents. A motor vehicle accident can result from simple driver error or negligent acts such as driving while intoxicated or driving over the speed limit, which may warrant legal action so that victims in these cases may receive just compensation for damages or car wreck injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car wreck, call the San Antonio personal injury attorneys at the Law Firm of Carabin & Shaw. Call us toll-free at 1-800-862-1260.
Texas Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Highlights, Calendar Year 2012
Pedestrian Fatality Rates for the State of Texas and Various Texas Cities Grim, Texas Injury Lawyers Blog, September 22, 2013