As lawyers who routinely represent clients who are seriously injured in car wrecks, we’re always interested in new traffic safety laws. And for that information, today is a big day. For many of the laws passed during the last legislative session, today (September 1) is the effective date — the date the law actually starts applying. Here are some things to watch out for.
TOW TRUCKS: In the last few years, drivers have been required to move over a lane or to reduce their speed to a speed at least 20 miles per hour below the applicable speed limit when passing an emergency vehicle pulled over on the side of the road with its lights flashing. As of today, that requirement now applies to tow trucks. I don’t really have much of a problem with this law. Tow truck drivers are exposed to danger, and this change in the law helps protect them and motorists passing them by. A 20 mile per hour reduction is a little extreme, but the concept is sound.
SPEED LIMIT: There are two big changes in the speed limit effective today. First, speed limits will be the same during night and day and separate speed limits for trucks have been eliminated. I’m not a big fan of this change. As to the night/day difference, studies have shown that this distinction helps safety. Eliminating this distinction will likely only increase the number of auto accidents. As to the truck speed limits, truck drivers are a huge safety issue, especially for those of us who live along IH 35, one of the busiest truck driving routes in the country. Again, I suspect changing that distinction will only lead to additional trucking accidents and more carnage.
The other big change to the speed limit is that speed limits on some state highways may be raised to 75 miles per hour if TXDOT finds the change safe after an engineering and traffic investigation. This won’t immediately affect the speed limit on any Texas roadways, but the process for the change can start today.
HARDSHIP LICENSES: Hardship licenses will be suspended if the holder is convicted of two or more moving violations during a 12 month period. I’m generally okay with this depending on how it’s applied. In many instances, a driver can receive a number of tickets for one traffic stop. I’ve personally seen (not for me, but for family members) officers issue multiple tickets in hopes that one will stick. If this type of abuse becomes more frequent and disqualifies drivers, I might have a problem with it.
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