There are now new restrictions on the use of cell phones while driving according to the DPS's Tela Mange.
It will be a Class "C" misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500. Mange says the state is also trying to crack down on those who drive around barricades that are blocking roads because of high water.
The barricade violation will be a Class "B" misdemeanor which carries possible jail time up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000.
Children younger than five and less than 36 inches tall will now have to be in a child safety seat. The old age limit was four years old or under 36 inches. This law is now also considered a moving violation. That means it is a more serious offense that will stay on your record.
The DPS's Tela Mange also says in an effort to reduce the number of people driving without insurance, the state is trying to set up a system in which insurance companies report to the state who has car insurance and who has allowed their policy lapse.
And your driver's license will again indicate if you want to be an organ donor. In the past those who wanted to be organ donors got a sticker attached to their license. Mange says now there will be an education and registry program. She says organ donor organizations didn't think that the time to make the decision was while standing line. Too many times the decision was made to be a donor but that decision was never discussed with family members.
The texts of these bills can be found on the Texas Legislature Online website. Select the enrolled version in the regular legislative session.
New traffic, criminal laws set to go into effect September 1
Notable traffic and criminal laws that go into effect on September 1 (unless noted otherwise) include the following:
SB 1257 prohibits use of wireless communications devices (including cell phones) for the first six months after teenagers get their driver licenses. The bill also prohibits passenger bus drivers transporting minors from using wireless communications devices, except in emergencies or when the bus is stopped.
HB 51 requires an ignition interlock device if a driver's blood alcohol level is determined to be .15 or more (upon conviction).
HB 1357 creates a six-month driver license (DL) suspension for a person convicted of providing alcohol to a minor (one year for second offense), and increases the DL suspension to one year for minors who are convicted of a second alcohol offense.
HB 1481 makes it a Class B misdemeanor if a person drives around a barricade where a warning sign or barricade has been placed because water is over any portion of a road, street or highway. It also specifically creates a traffic violation for driving around a barricade put in the roadway because of dangerous conditions.
HB 183 states that all children younger than 5 years of age (old law was younger than 4) and less than 36 inches tall are required to be in a child safety seat system. It also classifies safety seat infractions as moving violations for the first time.
SB 1005 provides that if a driver younger than 25 years of age commits a traffic offense classified as a moving violation, the judge must require the driver to complete a driving safety course—and, if the driver holds a provisional driver license (under 18 years of age), submit to a DPS road test. Failure by the driver to meet this requirement will result in a final conviction for that traffic offense.
HB 1484 specifies that a person commits a traffic offense if they are involved in a crash on the main lane, ramp, shoulder, median or adjacent area of a freeway and don't move their vehicle to an area that minimizes interference with freeway traffic (assuming the vehicle is drivable).
HB 1596 clarifies the definition of neighborhood electric vehicles and motor assisted scooters and allows municipalities to regulate the use of motor assisted scooters on roadways and sidewalks.
SB 1257 disqualifies a person from operating a commercial motor vehicle if the person's driving is determined to constitute an imminent hazard.
HB 754 allows fines up to $500 for violating the laws for transporting loose material in commercial vehicles.
SB 1258 specifies that an original commercial driver license or commercial driver learner's permit expires in five years instead of six years.
HB 87 allows cities to lower residential speed limits from 30 mph to 25 mph in certain instances. This bill took effect immediately.
HB 2257 allows the TxDOT commission to establish a daytime speed limit of 80 miles per hour on I-10 or I-20 in Crockett, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kerr, Kimble, Pecos, Reeves, Sutton or Ward counties. If established, this speed does not apply to truck tractors, trailers, semi trailers, or trucks, other than light trucks and light trucks pulling a trailer. This bill took effect immediately.
SB 1670 requires the Department of Insurance, in conjunction with TxDOT and other agencies, to establish a verification program for vehicle insurance in order to try and reduce the number of uninsured drivers.
HB 120 creates an organ donor education and registry program. Eventually, Texans will be able to indicate their wish to become an organ donor when they are issued or renew their driver license or ID card.
SB 122 requires peace officers to report notification of ID theft to their employing agency. It provides penalties for the unauthorized use of personal information.
HB 699 increases the penalty for using someone else's DL or ID card to a Class A misdemeanor. It also clarifies that use of a false ID by someone under 21 for purchase of alcohol is a Class C misdemeanor.
HB 1239 makes DPS more involved with drug task forces operating in Texas, including any "multi-county" drug task forces. (Effective August 1.)
HB 164 places restrictions on the sale of pseudoephedrine products and allows children exposed to meth production to be removed from the home. (Effective August 1.)
HB 867 eliminates mandatory newspaper notification for sex offenders. Another provision deals with postcard notification for high-risk sex offenders. DPS is now required to send the postcards to all addresses within the distribution area, except post office boxes. Prior law specified residential addresses only.
HB 1068 creates an independent commission with investigational oversight involving complaints against DNA crime labs in the state. It also requires DNA sampling from some 60,000 current Texas prison inmates who do not have DNA profiles in the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database.
HB 823 describes the conditions under which a person will be presumed to be "traveling" for the first time. It applies to people who have a handgun in their vehicle but do not have a concealed handgun license (CHL). It also places the burden of proof on prosecutors to prove the driver was "not traveling."
HB 225 extends the renewal time for a CHL from four to five years, which will reduce the average annual cost of a license.
HB 322 lowers the age requirement for active duty or retired members of the military applying for a CHL from 21 years of age to 18, and reduces the original license fee and any renewal fees for active duty members of the armed forces by 50 percent.
HB 1038 reduces CHL renewal fees by 50 percent for anyone over 60 years of age.