New Texas Driving Laws Hit the Books on September 1st

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

TEXAS--There are exceptions that could save you from getting a ticket. Law enforcement officials NewsWest 9 spoke to said it all boils down to common sense.  You could be out more money than you can afford, if you choose not to follow these new laws.

According to Cpl. Sherrie Carruth with the Odessa Police Department, "You're looking at the fine and you're looking at the court costs.  Then if someone gets hurt in that, you're looking at an expense that you just can't afford."

Starting September 1st, everyone riding in a vehicle must wear a seat belt.  It doesn't matter how old you are or where you ride.

"Normally, if you were in the back seat and were over 18, you had that choice of not being able to wear one.  Now, it doesn't matter the age.  You are required to wear a seat belt," Carruth explained.

You'll also want to keep those cell phones off in an activated school zone unless the vehicle is stopped or the person is using a hands free device.

And kids under age 8 or that are smaller than 4'9", must ride in an approved booster seat. But just because the laws are in the books, doesn't mean they will be fully enforced.  Take for example, the cell phone law, it's up to the individual City or County to make the call.

"They must post a sign at the beginning of each school zone, to inform them before we can write a citation," Carruth said.

Carruth added, the booster seat law won't be punishable until June of 2010, "People still have enough time to make the purchases, to get the seats installed, to get what they need in there and be ready by June 1st."

For now, you can only get a warning for not having your child in a booster seat, but as for the other laws, Carruth says, you can be stopped if an officer catches you breaking them, "If a violation occurs in an officer's presence, he is going to write a citation."

Fines for these tickets can run up to $500 each, plus court costs.   Law enforcement officials warn, just because some of these laws aren't being enforced right away, doesn't mean drivers should ignore them completely.

Remember, if you get stopped, it is up to the officer's discretion whethere he gives you a ticket or just a warning.