Weatherford Democrat

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September 1, 2013

New traffic, criminal laws take effect today

From Staff Reports

A slate of new state laws go on the books as of today.

One new law prohibits cell phone usage on school grounds, not just on public streets in school zones. The law prohibits drivers from using mobile phones on school grounds during pick-up and drop-off times.

This means during the time the “school zone” lights are flashing, it is a misdemeanor offense for a driver to use a cell phone while the vehicle is moving anywhere on school property including while driving through a parking lot and drop-off lanes. Exceptions are made if the vehicle is stopped or a hands-free device is used.

The Texas Department of Public Safety highlighted some of the other notable traffic and criminal laws that are going into effect beginning today.

“As a result of these new provisions, Texans now have additional protection while traveling our roadways, and individuals who disregard our laws will face tougher penalties for a variety of crimes,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw.

The following new laws is not a comprehensive list of all new laws passed by the Texas Legislature.

• HB 1174 amends current statute to increase the minimum fines for the misdemeanor offense of passing a stopped school bus loading or unloading children. The minimum fine increases 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 181 allows a motor vehicle operator the option of using a wireless communication device (such as a cell phone) to display motor vehicle financial responsibility (proof of insurance) information as evidence of financial responsibility. The display does not constitute effective consent for a law enforcement officer, or any other person, to access the contents of the wireless communication device except to view the financial responsibility information. *This bill is effective immediately.

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