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The Common Law: New Texas Traffic Laws Take Effect in September

New Texas traffic laws take effect in September

By Luke Ellis, Fri., Sept. 6, 2013

The Texas legislative session is finally in our rearview mirror and everyday Texans are left to make heads or tails of the hundreds of new Texas laws that took effect on September 1. The new laws cover a myriad of topics, but none more important to daily activities than driving. Here's a summary of several new traffic laws that will impact everyday driving in Texas.

Move Over for TxDOT Vehicles: The Texas Move Over Law (originally implemented in 2003) requires Texas motorists to provide a one-lane buffer between their car and the law enforcement or first responder vehicle on the side of the road, or if this is not possible, to slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit. The law has now been expanded to apply to Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) vehicles with their lights activated and not separated from the roadway by a traffic-control device. So be sure to either move over or slow down if you see the blue and white flashing lights (typically a sign of a TxDOT vehicle).

School Buses: Texas legislators have increased the punishment for drivers who illegally pass school buses when the lights and stop signs are activated. Fines increased from a minimum of $200 and a maximum of $1,000 to $500 and $1,250, respectively. The fine also increased from $1,000 to $2,000 for drivers with two or more of these violations within a five-year period.

Schools and Cell Phones: Hopefully by now everyone knows that you can't talk on your cell phone while driving through a school zone (that law was first implemented in 2009). Texas law has now been expanded to prohibit use of cell phones anywhere on school property, including outside of a school zone, unless the vehicle is stopped or the driver is using a hands-free device.

Car Insurance: Texas law now allows you to show proof of car insurance by using your cell phone.

Two License Plates: Vehicles must display both license plates (front and back) assigned to the vehicle. Failure to do so could result in a misdemeanor offense and a fine of up to $200.

Read next month's column to learn about other new (non-traffic) laws that could impact Austin residents.

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