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11 New Traffic, Criminal Laws Hit the Books Sunday: Using Phones for Good and Bad, Salvia and Rendering Aid

Some new traffic laws will go into effect beginning this Sunday, September 1. That means that they will all be on the books for Labor Day and it's a good idea to know them because of that whole ignorance of the law thing. I found out the hard way when I got a ticket because I hadn't changed the address on my drivers license within 30 days of moving to a new place. Who knew?

These new laws and modifications to existing laws include several pertaining to the use of technology in your car, all of which seem pretty reasonable, particularly when you don't have a hard copy of your proof of insurance with you.

Don't use your phone in a school zone.

HB347 expands on the current law prohibiting the use of wireless devices including cell phones in school zones. Now added to the law is any property of a public elementary, middle or junior high school -- you private school ninnies are on your own. This is only during school zone times and doesn't apply if you are stopped, having an emergency (no, changing your tee time does not count as an emergency) or if you are using a hands-free device, which is an interesting exception to the rule.

And while you're at it, don't pass a school bus, dummy.

It never ceases to amaze me when people go sailing through a school zone or flying past a stopped school bus. This is NOT ok. As a result, the state has increased fines to anyone pulling this little stunt. Plus, get a second one of these violations within five years of the first and your fine could double.

No proof of insurance? No problem.

One of the more frustrating limitations in the legal system has been its inability to keep up with technology. For example, if you don't have a copy of your insurance card on you, why shouldn't an image of it from the insurance company website or app suffice? Well, now it does. You can now use an image from your carrier's website of your insurance card as proof you are covered.

Slow down when approaching a police vehicle.

No, this doesn't mean you should slam on your brakes when you are doing 80 in a 55 and see a parked cop on the shoulder. But, it does mean if you see any Texas Department of Transportation vehicle with its lights on, you should slow the hell down, Speed Racer. This is an expansion of the state's existing Move Over/Slow Down law, boosting the consequences if you hurt someone or something in the process.

 

Commercial vehicles can now be stopped by DPS in big counties.

Apparently, DPS officers in counties with fewer than 2.2 million people weren't allowed to enforce federal commercial motor vehicle regulations. Weird. HB 2304 lowers that number to 1 million which would include Bexar, Tarrant and Travis counties. So, don't think you get a free ride in the hill country any more.

Better have two plates.

Why would anyone drive around with only one license plate? Is it to make the car look cool? Is it to avoid cops getting a peak at your plate thus avoiding a lengthy prison stay after they find all that weed in the stolen car you're driving? Whatever the case, better get another plate because now they can stop you for that too.

Be a Good Samaritan.

Both HB 3668 and SB 275 amend existing laws to require those involved in accidents to render aid to victims. This is a common sense law that frankly saves lives. Running from the scene of an accident, particularly one where there are injured people, is stupid. Just don't.

Bomb threats at colleges...not ok.

Now, we come to the more criminal of the new laws. In this case, calling in a bomb threat to a college or university has been increased from a misdemeanor to a felony that can result in jail time. It's real funny when all your buddies are snickering in the background, but then you go to prison and you get stuck with a filed down toothbrush. See, not so fun.

Salvia is bad, dude.

HB 124 adds Salvia divinorum to the list of controlled substances unless it is not harvested and growing in its natural state. But isn't all of Mother Nature's plant life growing in a natural state, man? Not in Texas, son.

You can't avoid the sex offender list.

There are arguments to be made about who should be forced to register for the sex offender list, why and for how long, but one this is certain: if you try to fake your way off the list, you are going to get busted. Now, if you use a fake ID to avoid the list, you can be punished by the next highest degree felony charge.


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