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5 Traffic Safety Laws Every Texas Driver Should Know

Posted on behalf of Stephens, Anderson & Cummings on Jun 05, 2017 in Auto Accidents

wreck on highwayEach year, traffic accidents cause thousands of severe injuries and deaths on Texas roadways. In 2016, 17,582 people were severely injured and 3,773 were killed in motor vehicle crashes.

Many of the accidents that caused these injuries and deaths involved violations of Texas road safety rules. This is why it is so important to be a defensive driver and follow all of our state's traffic safety laws. This can help prevent accidents and reduce the risk of being killed or suffering a severe injury if an accident happens.

Our Fort Worth car accident attorneys advise you to review the traffic safety laws below before hitting the road. If you suffer an injury or lose a loved one in a car crash, contact our firm for a free legal consultation to find out if you can file a lawsuit to obtain compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.

1. Texas Seat Belt Laws

In 2016, more than 43 percent of those killed in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing a seat belt, despite the fact that not wearing a seat belt violates the Texas Transportation Code.

Under Section 545.413(a) of the code, it is illegal for anyone who is at least 15 years old to ride in a passenger vehicle without wearing a seat belt, provided the person's seat is equipped with a seat belt. Violating this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of between $25 and $50.

Section 545.413(b) makes it illegal for anyone operating a passenger vehicle equipped with seat belts to allow someone who is younger than 17 years old to not wear a seat belt. Violating this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of between $100 and $200.

Child Seat Belt Law

It is illegal to transport a child under eight years of age without the child being secured in a child passenger safety seat system, according to Section 545.412 of the transportation code. The only exception is if the child is more than four feet nine inches tall.

The penalty for a violation of this section is a misdemeanor charge that carries a fine between $25 and $250.

Enforcement of Seat Belt Laws

The Click It or Ticket Campaign has been helping authorities enforce Texas seat belt laws for 15 years. When the campaign began in 2002, 76 percent of Texas residents used their seat belts. The campaign has helped increase that figure to 92 percent.

How Seat Belts Help Keep Motorists Safe

Wearing your seat belt is not just the law, it helps keep you safe on the road. Wearing a seat belt prevents you from being ejected from your vehicle in a crash and increases your chances of surviving the crash by 45 percent.      

2. Texas Distracted Driving Laws

One of the fastest growing threats to traffic safety is distracted driving. Last year in Texas, 455 people were killed in accidents involving a distracted driver.

The most common form of distracted driving is using a cellphone while driving, often for texting or making a phone call.  

There is currently no statewide ban on the use of cellphones while driving. However, more than 90 cities have restrictions on the use of cellphones while driving. Some of those restrictions include:

  • Those driving on a learner’s permit cannot use handheld cellphones during the first six months they drive.
  • Any driver under age 18 is not permitted to use a cellphone.
  • School bus drivers cannot use cellphones when driving children
  • No drivers may text or use handheld devices when moving through a school zone.

These restrictions carry fines ranging from $200 to $500.

3. Speeding Laws

Speeding puts all motorists at risk in the following ways:

  • Crashes are likely to be more severe when speeding is involved
  • It is easier for a driver to lose control of a vehicle if he or she is speeding
  • Speeding decreases the amount of time in which drivers can stop to avoid a hazardous situation

In 2016, there were 300 deaths from crashes involving motor vehicles that were speeding, this includes drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

It is illegal to travel above the speed limit on a Texas roadway. Section 545.351 of the transportation code states that drivers are not permitted to travel a speed that is greater than what is reasonable or prudent for the given circumstances.

Section 545.352 sets speed limits for certain situations, including:

  • 30 mph in an urban district on a street that is not an alley
  • 15 mph in an alley
  • 70 mph on a highway numbered by the state or federal government that is outside an urban district
  • 60 mph on highways in urban districts, provided the highway is not numbered by the state or federal government
  • 60 mph for school buses that have passed commercial motor vehicle inspection and are traveling on highways numbered by the federal or state government
  • 50 mph for school buses that did not pass inspection or are traveling on highways not numbered by Texas or the United States
  • 15 mph on a beach

4. Texas DUI and DWI Laws

Drunk driving kills or injures someone in Texas every 20 minutes. Last year, 987 people were killed in crashes involving drivers who were under the influence of alcohol, accounting for 26 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities last year.

In Texas, you can be arrested and charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) if your blood alcohol concentration is at least 0.08.  

If convicted of DWI, you face the following consequences:

  • $2,000 fine
  • Jail sentence between three and 180 days
  • Loss of driver's license for as much as one year
  • An annual fee of $1,000 to $2,000 for three years in order to keep your license

The penalties for DWI are worse for each subsequent offense. For instance, the fine for a second offense is up to $4,000. You will also lose your license for up to one year and could also spend one month to one year in jail.

Drivers convicted of two or more driving while intoxicated offenses within five years must have an ignition interlock switch installed on their vehicle. Ignition interlocks prevent a vehicle from operating if the driver is intoxicated.

Driving under the influence of alcohol puts you and everyone on the road at risk of being injured or killed in a car crash. That is why you should never drink and drive. If you plan to be drinking, designate a sober driver before you leave, or take a cab or rideshare service home if you cannot stay overnight in the place where you are drinking.

5. Traffic Laws on Intersections

While speeding, distracted driving and drunk driving are some of the most common causes of car accidents, there are many other culprits in car crashes.

For instance, last year, 814 people were killed in crashes at intersections or crashes that were related to intersections. Many of these accidents occurred when cars were making right or left turns.

That is why all drivers in Texas should review traffic laws governing intersections, as these rules were designed to keep everyone safe when approaching and passing through intersections.

Section 545.101 governs turning at intersections. The law says that cars making right turns should turn as close to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway as is practical.

When making left turns, drivers are required to:

  • Approach the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane that is lawfully available
  • Leave the intersection so you arrive in a lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of the vehicle on the road being entered

Review Other Traffic Laws

All Texas drivers should familiarize themselves with the rules of the road, as they are meant to protect motorists and pedestrians and keep them safe if accidents occur.

That is why every driver should study the Texas Driver Handbook to make sure they know how to follow all traffic laws.

Injured in a Car Accident? A Texas Car Accident Attorney Can Help

Car accidents can cause devastating injuries that are expensive to treat. A skilled Texas car accident lawyer can help you recover the compensation you need to pay your medical bills, plus compensation for lost wages and pain and suffering.

The attorneys of Stephens, Anderson & Cummings are well-versed in Texas road safety laws and will work to support your case for fair compensation.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation legal consultation. Our fees are contingency based, so you do not pay unless we recover for you.

Call (877) 920-9009 or complete our Free Case Evaluation form today.