Texas Law Updates
State laws passed in 2009 included new safety belt requirements for both drivers and passengers. For the first time, all passengers (including adults) in the back seat now must be buckled up, and children younger than 8 years old have to ride in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. Fines range from $25 to $250 plus court costs.
“Whether you’re the driver or a passenger in the front or back seat, every adult and every child in the vehicle must be properly restrained,” said Carol Rawson, TxDOT’s Traffic Operations Division Director. “Buckling up saves lives, and it can also save you from getting an expensive ticket.”
Buckling up is your best bet to prevent serious injury or death in a crash. Crashes where the victims aren’t wearing safety belts can be deadly. People who aren’t buckled up are often thrown out of their car or truck, and sometimes the vehicle rolls over them. Unbelted backseat passengers can become projectiles in a car crash: they can be tossed around inside the vehicle and even can injure or kill those in the front seat. Riders in the back seat who use lap and shoulder belts are 44% more likely to survive in a crash than unrestrained occupants in passenger cars and 73% more likely in passenger vans and SUVs.
Attention all adults
It’s simple. Texas law requires drivers and all passengers in a vehicle to be secured by a safety belt. Yes, that means unbuckled adult passengers in the back seat now can get tickets, too.
Kids are covered, too.
Children younger than 8 years old must be in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches. Fines are up to $250 plus court costs.
A number of new traffic and vehicle laws have recently gone into effect. Here are some of the laws set to take effect in Texas:
- SB 61 amends the existing statute regarding child passenger safety seats. The bill requires that any child younger than eight years of age be restrained in an approved child passenger safety seat unless the child is at least 4 feet, 9 inches in height. The fine is no more than $25 for a first offense and $250 for a second offense. The law also creates a new court cost for conviction of an offense under this section to be collected and used by TxDOT to buy safety seats for low-income families. The law becomes effective on Sept. 1, 2009, but tickets for this offense cannot be issued until June 1, 2010. Police officers are allowed to issue a warning before that date.
- HB 55 makes it illegal to use a wireless communication device in a school zone unless the vehicle is stopped or a hands-free device is used. Cities or counties wanting to enforce this law must post a sign at the beginning of each school zone to inform drivers that using a wireless communications device is prohibited and the operator is subject to a fine. It is a defense to prosecution if the operator was making an emergency call.
- HB 2730 allows a new Texas resident to operate a vehicle without a Texas license for 90 days instead of the current 30. (This provision went into effect on June 19, 2009.)
- HB 2012 creates two new punishment enhancements: a Class B misdemeanor if a person drives with a suspended license and without insurance; and a class A misdemeanor if the person driving without insurance or a valid driver license has an accident and someone is seriously injured or dies as a result of that accident.
- HB 2730 requires that all applicants under the age of 18 take the driving skills exam to receive a driver license. The law also requires that a provisional driver license (under 18) or instruction permit expire on an individual's 18th birthday, removes the requirement that a provisional driver license or instruction permit be renewed annually and increases the fee for those licenses from $5 to $15. It also extends the current phase-two restrictions for holders of a graduated driver license from six months to 1 year. These restrictions include limited night driving, prohibited use of wireless communication devices and a limited number of passengers.
- HB 339 increases the total hours of behind-the-wheel driving instruction a teen receives from 14 to 34 after TEA develops criteria for curriculum. (Goes into effect May 1, 2010.)
- SB 1317 creates a six-hour driver education course required for driver license applicants 18 years of age or older. It also mandates that applicants 25 or under must submit to an approved driver education course. (Goes into effect March 1, 2010.)
- SB 328 gives DPS the power to suspend a minor's driver license if he or she fails a breath or blood alcohol test while operating a watercraft. Chapter 524 of the Transportation Code also clearly defines the suspension period for an individual who was under the age of 21 at the time when the offense of boating under the influence or driving under the influence of alcohol occurred. The law also increases the reinstatement fee for a license suspended under sections 49.04-49.08, Penal Code from $50 to $100.