New Texas Traffic Laws in Effect
There are new traffic laws in Texas that went into effect on September 1st, 2013 and failure to follow them could result in some hefty fines. The Texas Department of Public Safety is working to make all Texas residents aware of the new traffic laws.
Texas School Safety Laws
Back to school safety is important for every member of the community to be aware of, so to coincide with school starting again Texas has changed some laws regarding school buses and school zones. The fine for not stopping for a school bus has gone up from $200 to $500, and can even have a maximum penalty of $1,250.
Watch Out for School Bus Cameras
Think you may be able to scoot around a bus illegally as long as a police officer isn't present? Think again. Many school buses are equipped with cameras that will document the license plate of offending vehicles, and the owners of these cars receive a citation in the mail. If a police officer does pull you over for this offense, a higher penalty applies than if you are caught by camera. In short, make sure you stop for school buses. If you don't, it is considered a moving violation, and in addition to the fine you may receive points on your license and may have to complete a Texas defensive driving course.
Hang Up and Drive When in School Zones
Texas residents will also want to make sure they get off the phone when dropping off or picking up the kids from school. Those caught talking on a cell phone while on school property will face a fine. This even includes while driving in parking lots and in drop off zones. This is to make sure drivers are as aware and alert of students who may be walking near the school as possible.
Failure to follow the cell phone ban could result in a $200 fine. Cars that are completely stopped are not held to this law, though, so just make sure you park before you talk. This is a good rule to follow whether you are driving near a school or not!
Texas Hit and Run Law
In memory of Austin resident Courtney Griffin, who was killed in a hit and run accident in 2011, the penalty for leaving the scene of a serious crash has been increased. Texas Officers were finding that a great deal of people who leave the scene of an accident do so because they were driving under the influence and wanted to avoid a DWI charge. Previously, the charge for leaving the scene of a crime was not as severe as a DWI.
Hit and Run Now Worse than a DWI
In order to stop this disturbing trend, the charge for leaving the scene of an accident has gone from a felony of the third degree to a felony of the second degree, the same as intoxicated manslaughter. Leaving the scene of an accident now carries a punishment of 2-20 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Clearly the Texas DPS is sending the message if you drink and drive, which then causes an accident, leaving the scene is now much worse than staying and facing a DWI charge. The simple solution to avoid this of course is: don't drink and drive!
Texas Department of Transportation Vehicles
Another new traffic law in effect is that Texas Department of Transportation vehicles on the side of the road must now be given the same consideration as police, ambulance and firefighter vehicles. This means when a Texas DOT worker of vehicle is present, drivers must move over or drive 20 mph below the speed limit. If the speed limit is 25 mph or less, drivers can go no faster than 5 mph.
This law was created in order to keep these workers safe while working on Texas highways. Drivers can recognize these vehicles by their blue and amber flashing lights. If the vehicle is on the side of the highway, drivers should move out of the right lane if possible, and if not then slow to 20 below the speed limit. Failure to move over, slow down or give right of way to a TxDOT vehicle can result in a $200 fine.
Keeping Texas Motorists Safe
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McGraw states that these updated laws are to protect Texans while they travel on Texas roadways, and that "individuals who disregard our laws will face tougher penalties for a variety of crimes." He also "encourages all residents to educate themselves (on the new laws) and to do their part in keeping Texas safe." Fortunately for Texas drivers, there will be a grace period on these laws until January 2014. For a full list of the updated laws, visit the Texas Department of Public Safety website.
If you fail to follow any of these laws, Safe Motorist can help. Our Texas state approved online traffic school can get your Texas traffic ticket dismissed and could possibly earn you an insurance discount.
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This article was written by SafeMotorist.com defensive driving staff writers and reviewed for accuracy by defensive driving instructors. All articles are based on current traffic laws and defensive driving practices. This article is intended for educational purposes only, and should not be taken as legal advice or literal interpretation of any specific traffic law.