North Texas Daily

Law changes for Texas drivers

Law changes for Texas drivers

Law changes for Texas drivers
September 13
07:31 2013

Joshua Knopp / Senior Staff Writer

The Texas Department of Public Safety put driving laws into effect on Sept. 1 that implement new requirements for drivers and increase the penalty for already criminal activity.

The laws include further restrictions on mobile phone use around schools, allowing individuals to use phones for proof of insurance, an expansion of the pull over/slow down law and expanded requirements for citizens who are involved in an accident where someone else might be hurt.

It has been illegal to use a cell phone in a school zone since 2009. Now citizens can no longer use their mobile devices anywhere on school property if their car is moving. Sergeant Jeremy Polk, UNT police department’s training coordinator, said this does not apply to colleges.

“In general, through Texas law, ‘school’ refers to a primary or secondary school. UNT, in the eyes of legal wording, is usually referred to as an ‘institute of higher education,’ therefore it is not included in the cell phone ban,” Polk said. “Having a law like this that applied to UNT might help to protect motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians from crashes that involved inattention.”

Integrated studies junior Easton Sinclair said he uses his cell phone while driving all the time and agrees with a law against such activity around schools.

“I did it the entire way here from Dallas,” he said. “Almost got into a wreck on the highway. Don’t know what would have happened if there was a kid there.”

Another new law allows drivers to use cell phones to prove financial responsibility. Many insurance companies now offer mobile applications that let drivers pull up their insurance statement on smart phones, but Denton Police Department media relations officer Ryan Grelle said police officers didn’t have to accept this until recently.

“You had to provide proof of insurance with an insurance card,” Grelle said. “Those commercials, they run in 50 states. Just because someone from another state allows it doesn’t mean Texas allows it.”

According to a New York Times article, just seven states allowed digital proof of insurance last February.

The pull over/slow down law, which requires drivers to either slow down 20 miles per hour below the speed limit or pull into another lane if certain vehicles are pulled over on the side of the road with their lights flashing, now includes Texas Department of Safety vehicles. Grelle said the law had previously covered emergency vehicles and tow trucks.

Finally, drivers are now required to provide reasonable assistance to others they’ve been involved in an accident with if there is an expectation of injury or death. Polk said this includes helping the person get to medical assistance if they need or ask for it.

Passing a stopped school bus now carries a fine of $500 to $1,250. Repeat offenses within five years will now cost $1,000 to $2,000.

The penalty for fleeing the scene of a crash where another person is killed was also increased. Previously a third-degree felony that carried a two to 10 year prison sentence and an optional fine of up to $10,000, it is now a second-degree felony. Second-degree felonies carry 2 to 20 year sentences and the same optional fine.

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