We’ll see if this helps with severe injury’s due to distracted younger drivers, plus the state should rack up a lot of revenue from tickets. When i’m driving around I constantly see little kids with no seat belt’s or even a car seat which they should have been in from the start. My younger sister wasn’t wearing a seat belt when she rolled a car severely crippling herself for life, now she will never walk since she is a paraplegic.
AUSTIN – Buckle your seat belts – it could be a bumpy Tuesday as new driving laws go into effect that will toughen the rules of the road, especially for teenagers.
Foremost, you will need to climb into the back and pull those buckles out from between the seat cushions. For the first time in Texas, all passengers will be required to wear a seat belt – not just those in the front seat or younger than 15.
While you’re back there, secure a car seat for any child younger than 8. Currently, only children 4 and younger have to be in a safety seat.
And if you want to talk about these changes, don’t do it on a hand-held cellphone in an active school zone. As of Tuesday, cellphones in school zones will be banned statewide.
The new state laws will definitely change some behavior, but “there’s nothing too onerous,” said Rep. Joe Pickett, the El Paso Democrat who leads the House Transportation Committee.
State lawmakers have been loath to mess with Texans and intrude on the inner-sanctum of their autos. Texas was one of the last states to pass safety belt requirements – waiting until 1985 – or an open-container law – not until 2001.
They still are, said Pickett, pointing out that many proposals, including ones that would shut down dialing and driving altogether or provide for sobriety checkpoints, didn’t make the cut.
But even the wide-open Texas roads sometimes have to be narrowed to save lives and protect kids, he said.
“The autos now are faster and more powerful. You have people driving with their knees while they put on makeup and answer their iPhones,” he said. “We create our own problems.”
The Legislature’s reluctance to go further, especially to prevent drunken driving, is lamentable because those proposals could have saved even more lives, said Bill Lewis, a lobbyist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Texas leads the nation in alcohol-related driving fatalities, and 39 states already have sobriety checkpoints.
“It’s just this notion that the police are in the back seat looking over my shoulder,” Lewis said.
Pushing beyond that idea could prevent a drunken driver from doing damage before it happens, he said.
“We don’t wait for people to blow up an airplane before we try to stop them. We have security checkpoints at the airport,” Lewis said.
MADD did score one change in the law: Police who stop drunken-driving suspects and find they have a drunken-driving record will be allowed to require a blood test, improving the chances of a later conviction.
But most new laws are aimed at young drivers, and those who study teen drivers are happy about the changes.
“Kids tell me all the time that they text while they’re driving down the road,” said Jennifer McCormies, an instructor at All-American Driving School and a teacher at Garland High School.
“Sometimes they feel like they’re indestructible,” she said. “I’ll say, ‘How can you drive without two hands?’ And they’ll say they can do it.”
Drivers younger than 18 can no longer use a cellphone to talk or text while driving.
Bernie Fette, a researcher at the Texas Transportation Institute who specializes in teen driving, said a 16-year-old is five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than any other age group.
He said that while parents and programs drill on drinking and driving and wearing a seat belt, the most dangerous activities for Texas teens are night driving and speeding.
Starting Tuesday, the prohibition against drivers younger than 18 being on the road between midnight and 5 a.m. will be extended from six months to one year after they get their license. Also extended is the law prohibiting young drivers from having more than one person younger than 21 in the car with them.
Also, in-car instruction will jump from 14 hours to 32 hours to obtain a license, which now can be procured only by passing an on-the-road test. That test is being brought back after nine years, so today’s youths will not be spared that special feeling of sitting next to a certified official – clipboard in hand – as they maneuver the city streets.
Referring to a survey of 10,000 Texas teen drivers, Fette said that about half recognize that driving while using a cellphone is dangerous, but about one-third acknowledge doing it anyway.
The one-year restrictions on new drivers will help, he said.
“Because that is the most dangerous and high-risk time for a new driver,” Fette said. “You won’t be good at playing the piano or driving a car until you have some time and practice.”