Athens Review, Athens, Texas

August 30, 2013

Getting the green light

New regulations for motorists take effect Sept. 1

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — Beginning Sept. 1, there are several new laws you should be aware of when on the road.

The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office will learn more about the new laws during legal update classes the first week of September. Athens Police Department Chief Buddy Hill said his department is studying the new laws to be ready to enforce that pertain to his department. Hill said many of the changes are on the punishment end and won’t affect the way the law is enforced.

In addition to some new traffic regulations to obey, there are stiffer fines for motorists who disobey pre-existing statutes.  The Texas Department of Public Safety warns that HB 1174, for example, increases the minimum fines for the misdemeanor offense of passing a stopped school bus loading or unloading children.

The bill increases the minimum fine from $200 to $500, and the maximum fine for such an offense increases from $1,000 to $1,250. The bill also enhances the penalty for a second or subsequent conviction of that offense committed within five years to a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum fine of $2,000.

SB 275 increases the penalty for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of a person and failing to render aid from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. A second degree felony carries a punishment of two to 20 years in prison and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000, whereas a third degree felony carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000.

With road construction a common sight in Henderson County, motorists will be wise to know that SB 510 requires drivers to move over or slow down when approaching a stationary Texas Department of Transportation vehicle with its lights activated and not separated from the roadway by a traffic-control device. This provision expands the law, which already requires drivers to yield to tow trucks, police, fire and emergency vehicles.

HB 347 expands the current limitations on cell phones or other wireless communication devices used in an active school crossing zone to include driving on school property.

The use will only be restricted during the time a reduced speed limit is in effect for the school crossing zone. It will not apply to vehicles that are stopped, or drivers using a hands-free device or making an emergency call.

SB 181 allows a motor vehicle operator the option of using a wireless communication device, such as a cell phone, to display motor vehicle proof of insurance information as evidence of financial responsibility. Texas joins 22 other states in adding the electronic option.

HB 625 clarifies that the penalty for operating a vehicle on a public highway without displaying the two license plates assigned to the vehicle. The law defines the violation as a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $200.