August 19, 2003
Driving-related legislation taking effect September 1, 2003:
SB 45 makes it a state jail felony to drive while intoxicated with a passenger younger than 15.
SB 193 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 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 and fire vehicles.
A violation is punishable by a maximum fine of $200. If the violation results in property damage, the maximum fine increases to $500. If the violation results in bodily injury, the offense is enhanced to a Class B misdemeanor.
Having a video display that is visible from the driver's seat is illegal. SB 209 expands the definition of video receiving equipment to include digital videodisc players, videocassette players or similar equipment. This equipment may be used only if it is located so that the video display is not visible from the operator's seat.
HB 1326 automatically suspends for one year the driver license of anyone convicted of illegally racing on a public roadway. Before the license can be reinstated, the driver would have to complete 10 hours of community service. The punishment for illegal racing increases to a Class B misdemeanor. The law also increases the punishment for drivers who are racing drunk, who have open containers of alcohol in the vehicle when racing, who seriously injure or kill someone during the race or who have been convicted multiple times of illegal racing. Those offenses range from a Class A misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.
SB 439 makes it illegal to add reflective material, lights, emblems or anything else that changes the color of the license plate or makes it difficult to read the letters on the license plate. The name of the state where the vehicle is registered must be visible.
SB 613 suspends the driver license of anyone under the age of 21 who is convicted of the manufacture, delivery, possession, transportation or use of an abusable volatile chemical.
HB 2096 makes human trafficking a second-degree felony; if the person trafficked is younger than 14 years of age or the commission of the offense results in the death, the offense is a first-degree felony. The bill also makes it a Class B misdemeanor to transport a person in a trailer or semi-trailer.
HB 292 strengthens an existing law and allows a police office to have a blood or breath alcohol sample taken from a driver involved in an alcohol-related crash that kills or seriously injures another person, either in a motor vehicle or a boat.
SB 895 requires that a parent or family member participating in the Parent-Taught Driver Education Program have a valid license for the previous three years. The license cannot have been suspended, revoked or forfeited during the past three years for traffic-related violations.
SB 1445 amends the current law to allow limited use of electronic information from the magnetic strip on the back of driver licenses by banks-and Texas Parks and Wildlife and its vendors.
HB 148 makes it a Class A misdemeanor to manufacture, sell or possess a placard that is deceptively similar to a disabled parking placard without proper authorization. A person also commits a Class B misdemeanor if they knowingly park in a space designated for persons with disabilities using a counterfeit placard.
HB 1784 makes it an offense for a person to park their vehicle where it blocks a disabled access aisle that is designed to aid persons with disabilities.
HB 1330 allows an applicant to voluntarily list on their driver license or identification card any health condition that might impede communication with peace officers. The applicant must supply DPS with a written statement from a licensed physician. (NOTE: This law takes effect Jan. 1, 2004.)
HB 3588 increases the penalty for seriously injuring someone when illegally passing a school bus that is loading or unloading students to Class A misdemeanor.
NOTE: An erroneous email has been circulating the Internet, claiming that HB 281, which outlawed talking on a cell phone while driving-or without using a hands-free device-had passed and will take effect September 1. The bill did not pass and will not take effect.
The texts of these bills can be found at www.capitol.state.tx.us. Select the enrolled version.