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Texas Driving and Traffic Laws

Anytime you're driving in a new place, it's a good idea to learn about the traffic laws there and how they might be different from the laws you're familiar. It's also a good idea to go over the traffic laws where you live every year or so, in order to remember anything you've forgotten. Thus, whether you're a driver who is new to Texas or one who has lived there for a while, here are some the laws you'll need to know about as you're driving in the state.

Recent Changes to Texas Driving Law

As of September 1, 2009, Texas added or changed some of its driving and traffic laws. These might be particularly important to current residents of the state, as they are a change from the old way of doing things.

The most commonly discussed change in TX law has to do with using a cell phone in school zones. As of the first of September, it is illegal to use a cell phone in a school zone unless your vehicle is stopped or you are using a hands free device with your phone.

Though this law was enacted at the state level, it is going to be up to individual cities and counties to determine whether and how to enforce it. The law requires that each school zone have signs at the beginning and the end indicating the cell-free zone and stating that officers will be ticketing for their use. Because these signs and getting them in place can be expensive, it will take some time for all the school zones to have them in place. However, it's best to be aware of the law so you know what the signs mean when you do see them.

Texas also changed its laws regarding seat belt use. The new laws require each person in a vehicle to wear a seat belt, regardless of their age or where in the vehicle they are sitting. This applies to people over the age of 18 just as it applies to those under, and to passengers in the back seat of a vehicle as well as to those in the front.

Finally, Texas is in the process of changing its booster seat law. As of July 2010, all children who are either under age 8 or smaller than 4'9" must ride in a booster seat. The extension in this law's enforcement is to allow parents and others who routinely transport children a chance to purchase these seats and make sure they're installed correctly.

Note that officers will not be issuing warnings about these new infractions but will, instead, be writing traffic tickets. You can be pulled over and cited for violation of these laws in the same way that you can with any of the old driving and traffic laws

Other Driving Laws in Texas

One thing that might be different about driving in Texas if you come from another state is that TX allows right turns on red lights, which many states prohibit. Note that these turns are permitted except when there is a sign at the intersection stating otherwise. While these turns might throw visiting drivers off at first, most people find that it is helpful and not dangerous to be able to make them.

When you're driving in Texas, the maximum permitted speed on any road is 70 miles per hour, and this pertains only to large highways and freeways during daylight hours. Other roads will have posted speed limits that you must follow at all times. At night in Texas, you must keep your speed at 65 miles per hour or below, even if the signage says you can go 70 miles per hour. At any time, the posted speed on a highway or freeway might be less then 70 miles per hour and, in that case, you must follow the speed noted on any signage.

Texas has a special law for drivers aged 79 and over. You may hear this law referred to as Katie's Law, named after Katie Bolka who was killed by a 90 year-old driver who failed to see a red light and stop at an intersection. Under this law, drivers who are 79 years old must appear in-person to renew their licenses. They will no longer be allowed to complete their renewals online or through the mail, as they have done before. This is so they can take a mandatory vision test to ensure they can see well enough to drive. At this time, they will be given a license that is good until they turn 85. Drivers over the age of 85 will be required to renew their licenses this way every two years instead of every 6 years.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense in Texas. Any driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol and will be prosecuted for that offense. For drivers under age 21, the maximum blood alcohol content is 0.02%, which basically means that anyone under that age with alcohol in their system will be prosecuted. For commercial drivers, the maximum allowed blood alcohol level is 0.04%.

The penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol in Texas are strict. For a first offense, you must pay a fine of up to $2,000, lose your driver's license for a period of time between 90 days and one year, and spend between 3 and 180 days in jail. These penalties only grow stricter if you have more than one offense.

Committing a DUI will cause you to face even stricter consequences in certain cases. If you are driving a child who is under 15 years old and are deemed intoxicated, you will spend between 180 days and 2 years in jail, and pay a fine less than $10,000. If you are intoxicated and cause an accident where someone is seriously injured, you will spend between 2 and 10 years in jail and will pay a fine less than $10,000. If you are intoxicated and cause an accident where someone is killed, you face imprisonment for between 2 and 20 years and/or a $10,000 fine. Sometimes, the penalties for these special circumstances are on top of the penalties you would face for driving under the influence of alcohol in the first place.

If an officer requests it, you are required to take a test for your blood alcohol content. This can be via blood, breath, or urine. This is called an Implied Consent Law in TX, meaning that having a driver's license implies that you will consent to these tests when asked. If you do not consent to the test, your driver's license will be revoked for at least 90 days.

While there are many more important traffic and driving laws in Texas, these are some of the most important and most commonly violated. If you'd like more information, contact the Texas Department of Public Safety through their website at Otherwise, have fun and be safe driving in Texas.



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