Various new laws and penalty changes occurred after the last legislative session and we thought it important to educate our community concerning some of them.
The Texas Transportation Code 545.157 requires drivers nearing stopped emergency vehicles with lights activated to either slow down or change lanes. The law states a driver must either vacate the lane closest to the stopped emergency vehicle if the road has multiple lanes traveling in the same direction or slow down to 20 miles per hour below the speed limit. (If the speed limit is below 25 mph the driver must slow down to 5 mph.) Emergency vehicles include police, emergency medical service, fire vehicles, tow trucks and Texas Department of Transportation workers.
One law boosts penalties for drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses as they load and unload children. A first conviction results in a minimum fine of $500 to $1,250. Another conviction could result in a fine of up to $2,000. In Goliad County, a minimum fine and court costs results in $610 for a first offense.
Another change in the law makes it more difficult for parents who fail to transport children 8 years old or younger in the proper child safety seat to defend in court. Under the previous law, parents who said they have a child safety seat but were not using it or plan to purchase one could use those claims to have the ticket dismissed.
Also under the new mandates, school property is now also a cell-free school zone, not just the roadways around schools. That means even if you are pulling into the school parking lot, you must stay off your phone. The new rule carries a maximum $200 fine.
The penalty was clarified for operating a vehicle on a public highway without displaying the two license plates assigned to the vehicle. It is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $200.
Please remember to keep your automobile insurance policy current. Not only does a first offense result in a hefty fine/court cost of $267, the DPS Driver Responsibility Program will also tack on a $250 per year (for three years) surcharge for your driver’s license.
Drive safely and responsibly.
Susan Moore, Justice of the Peace, Precint 1
Steve Kennedy, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2