This year, AAA Texas helped pass several new traffic- safety laws, including many of the ones that follow. These laws take effect September 1, 2009, unless otherwise noted.
Studies show that certain distractions and nighttime driving significantly increase crash risks. In Texas, teen drivers are now prohibited from doing the following during the first 12 months of licensure: driving between midnight and 5 a.m., traveling with more than one passenger under age 21, and using wireless communication devices while driving. Previously, the restriction period was only six months. In addition, teens under age 18 are now required to take a behind-the-wheel test before they can be issued a driver’s license. Previously, AAA Texas has advocated teen driver safety through legislation that created and strengthened the state’s Graduated Driver License law.
Driver Education Course
Driver’s licenses can no longer be issued to applicants under age 25 unless they present a driver education certificate. Previously, a course was not mandatory for applicants 18 and older. The law requires successful completion of a six-hour, state-approved driver education course that covers the dangers of distracted driving (including using a cell phone), as well as the rights and responsibilities of sharing the road with motorcycles and bicycles.
With this new law, Texas now meets federal traffic-safety standards for transporting children in motor vehicles. Children under age 8, unless they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall, must be secured in size-appropriate child passenger safety-seat systems. This typically includes booster seats for older children. Previously, only children under age 5 and less than 36 inches tall were required to be secured in safety seats. For the first nine months, law enforcement will issue warnings for violations; ticketing for an offense begins June 1, 2010.
Drivers may not use handheld wireless communication devices (WCD), including cell phones, in a school-crossing zone; hands-free devices are permitted. The only exception for using a handheld WCD is in case of an emergency. This new statewide law replaces any existing local ordinances. AAA Texas urges drivers to refrain from using any WCD—whether hands-free or handheld—while driving, regardless of location. Studies show that it’s the conversation that causes the dangerous distraction.
Drinking and Driving
Tougher laws face Texans who drink and drive—whether on land or on water. Minors convicted of operating a boat with any detectible amount of alcohol in their system now face prosecution. Other provisions that strengthen the bill include a mandatory one-year license suspension for an alcohol-related conviction of boating or driving when a child is present.
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