The summer driving season is now under way, as the Memorial Day weekend inaugurates the vacation season throughout the nation. Higher gasoline prices have not yet altered the habits of many motorists, although predictions suggest that vacation trips will be shorter or closer to home as long as higher prices prevail.
While Texans prepare for the Memorial Day weekend, the Texas Department of Public Safety is asking drivers to drive safely.
All available troopers will be patrolling Texas roadways, looking for drivers who are speeding, not wearing seat belts and who appear to be driving while intoxicated. Slow down, buckle up and drive sober, according to Col. Thomas A. Davis Jr., director of the DPS.
Drivers who are not sober should expect that they will be pulled over; and if they fail field sobriety tests, they will be arrested. Drivers who are intoxicated and have children under the age of 15 in the vehicle face state jail felony charges.
DPS troopers and many other Texas law enforcement agencies are participating in “Click It or Ticket,” a national campaign aimed at increasing the number of people who use their seat belts correctly, every time they get into a vehicle. Drivers pulled over for seat belt violations can expect to receive a ticket.
With more people traveling the highways this time of year, it’s a good time to brush up on the rules of the road. For many of us, it’s been decades since the state required us to sit down for a written test to get a Texas driver license. Sure, I consider pretty myself knowledgeable on these type of things. After all, I only missed one question of the written test. But that happened when I was a teenager. Some laws have changed, and I’ve had to remember of lot of new stuff since that time.
Last year, the Texas Department of Transportation produced a small book titled “Texas Road Tips” that is a concise review of important rules.
“Laws change,” the preface of the book states. “What you thought you knew about driving on Texas roads and highways may not be so.”
Do all children have to wear a safety belt in a vehicle? What should I do if I encounter an aggressive driver? Can I be ticketed for passing a school bus? What are the possible penalties if you’re charged with DWI while carrying a passenger under 15?
If you have any hesitation in answering those questions, a review of the laws is in order. And even if you don’t hesitate, you might want to compare your answers to those in the book to make sure you and the rules are on the same page.
So here are portions of the answers provided by the compact book, which represent only a few of the facts it covers.
Texas law required drivers and front seat passengers in all vehicles to be secured by a safety belt. Children under 17 years years old must be secured with a safety seat, whether they are sitting in front or back seat. A child under 5 and less than 36 inches tall must ride in a child safety seat.
Avoid the dangers presented by an aggressive driver by not doing things that can provoke him (or her). Don’t tailgate or flash your lights. Move over and let the driver pass. Go lightly with the horn. Avoid eye contact, and don’t make inappropriate gestures. Stay calm, and don’t become an aggressive driver yourself.
Texas law requires motorists to stop for flashing red lights on a school bus, regardless of the direction you’re headed. Continue your trip after the bus has moved, the flashing lights stop flashing or the bus driver signals it’s OK to pass. Violations can lead to a fine of up to $1,000.
You can be charged with child endangerment for driving while intoxicated if you’re carrying passengers younger than 15. That is punishable with a fine of up to $10,000, up to two years in a state jail and loss of driving privileges for 180 days.
The book is packed with information, but perhaps the most helpful item is at the end. A form lists all the information you should exchange with other drivers in the event of a traffic accident. Having been in a few of those myself, I know you’re not thinking very logically in those moments afterward. Having a form would help immensely.
So as you take your summer trips, remember to drive safely, enjoy your time away and come back with pleasant memories to share.
Gene Deason is managing editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.