Before heading out to drive in Texas, you need to know the rules. And while driver's ed can keep you up to date with all you need to know, sometimes, laws change after you've completed your courses. So what are the latest traffic laws to go into effect in the Lone Star State?
New Traffic Laws in Texas
What's new in Texas when it comes to the rules of the road? Here's the latest.
Lisa Torrey Smith Act
The Lisa Torrey Smith Act was signed into law in June of this year (2021), as an aftereffect of Ms. Smith being killed by a vehicle while walking across a crosswalk with her six-year-old son. The motorist was cited with failure to yield but was never charged. He was later brought before the grand jury in an attempt to charge him with criminally negligent homicide but it was declined.
The new law adds a section to the Texas Transportation Code further protecting pedestrians in crosswalks. If a pedestrian or person driving a bike, electric scooter, golf cart, etc. is injured in the crosswalk by a motorist, the motorist will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Further, if the victim suffers serious bodily injury, the offense is upgraded to a state jail felony. This update is a reminder of how important it is to look out for pedestrians at crosswalks.
In 2017, Colten Carney was walking to work in Royse City and was struck and killed by a motorist. While Colten was given a blood test to detect the presence of alcohol and drugs, the motorist was not. Colten's Law was signed into Texas law over the summer and will go into effect on September 1. It requires police officers to take a blood specimen test if:
A person is arrested for intoxication in an incident involving a watercraft or motor vehicle
A person refuses to undergo a blood test
A person was the operator of a watercraft or motor vehicle involved in an accident and the officer believes the accident resulted from intoxication
The officer believes that someone will die or suffer serious bodily injury as a direct result of the accident
Prior to this law, it was up to the individual enforcement officer to decide if they would conduct a blood alcohol test on a motorist when they hit a pedestrian — it was not mandatory.
DWI Law Changes
Lastly, in September of 2019, the controversial Texas Driver Responsibility Program was repealed. Now, first-time offenders can have their charges deferred. When this occurs, the offender will be put on probation or supervision. Additionally, they will need to use an ignition interlock system that prevents the car from starting if they blow into the breathalyzer and have a blood alcohol level of .03 or higher.
This change is helpful for first-time offenders because it means the DWI conviction will not be on their record and they won't have to pay the expensive fees. It's a second chance. However, if they get a second DWI, the first offense can be resurrected, resulting in heavier consequences. While driving under the influence is never a good idea, Texas will show no mercy on your second offense.
Dismiss a Ticket with Online Traffic School in Texas
Have you recently received a moving violation in Texas? Or, do you want to refresh your driving knowledge to prevent any incidents (and get an insurance discount?) Either way, I Drive Safely provides an entertaining online traffic school you can complete in no time!
Check out our online, state-approved Texas Traffic Ticket Dismissal Courses!