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All about the New Texas Traffic Laws
Effective as of September 2013, a bevy of new traffic laws have been enacted in the state of Texas to make driving safer. To make sure you don't get ticketed for doing something that was legal until last summer, here's an overview of a few more things you can't do now - as well as some options on what to do if you get caught doing them.
Heads Up in School Zones
Speed limits in Texas are never more sacred than in a school zone, where you're under special scrutiny as a motorist. You need to drive slowly and carefully when children are present, and the DPS means business when it comes to reckless driving behavior. Illegally passing a school bus, for example, will now mean a fine that's more than double what it used to be, going as high as $1,250.
If you think you might be in the clear when you're edging around that bus and see no police cars present, think again. Many buses in Texas are now equipped with cameras that can record the license plates of cars passing them. Even if you get away clean, you could end up getting a nasty surprise in the mail the next month. If a police officer does stop you, the fine will be higher than it would be with a camera.
There are also strict new laws about cell phone use in a school zone, including parking lots and drop-off zones. If your car is in motion, you're vulnerable to a $200 fine - so just stop and park if you need to send a text.
New Hit and Run Rules
Until recently, drivers involved in a hit-and-run incident were often more scared of the penalty for driving under the influence than for hitting someone. To counteract this kind of evil logic, the DOT has increased the penalty for drivers who leave the scene of an accident, giving the crime even more weight than the state's drunk driving laws.
Leaving the scene of an accident is now a second-degree felony, the same as intoxicated manslaughter. It carries the penalty of 2-20 years jail time and a $10,000 fine. Facing the DUI charge in the wake of an accident is now much less serious than simply leaving.
Watch Out for Texas DOT Vehicles
To protect DOT workers and vehicles, new laws require motorists to move aside or slow down by 20 mph when they see them. It's the same legal consideration accorded to emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances. Keep an eye out for the distinctive blue-and-amber flashing lights.
Texas Ticket Dismissal Course
If you've been ticketed for violating traffic laws, you can always take a Texas defensive driving online course to get it dismissed. It's simple, affordable, and convenient - although it won't work every time. So try to stay safe and obey the law when you're on the road.