Everything You Should Know About Texas Driving Laws

All Information About Driving Laws in TexasAll Information About Driving Laws in Texas

Texas is the second-largest state in the US by size, at 695,662 square kilometers, just behind Alaska. It is also the second-largest state by population, coming behind California. In 2020, it had a population of 29,145,505, giving it a population density of 43 people per square kilometer. More people mean more cars on the road and more licenses issued. In 2020, Texas had a total of 17,667,039 registered drivers with licenses. In the same year, it had 8,088,058 registered vehicles.

The higher the number of people on the road, the higher the occurrence of road accidents. To avoid accidents, there are traffic rules, but these rules get broken every day, increasing the number of traffic violators. Most of these driving violations border around drinking and driving - amounting to 46%, and texting and driving account for 27.2%. In 2020, Texas ranked third for the worst drivers in the US.

Learning the Laws of Driving in Texas

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) handles the laws of driving and calling out offenders. They have a handbook of about 80 pages on driver’s safety covering all current driving and traffic laws. An alternative to the handbook is registering for an online driver’s class. The online course takes only about six hours to complete, and you can access it using any smart device. The online platform is a preferred option for many people, as it gives a large room of versatility for learning the laws of driving in Texas.

Categories of Driving Violations

In Texas, and the US in general, there are two categories of driving violations - Moving and Non-moving violations. These categories have different fines and punishments, as their severity differs.

Moving violations come up when your car is in motion. Examples are over speeding, drinking and driving, driving under the influence, or running a red light. Non-moving violations are violations that come up without moving your car. It is usually about having faulty or missing equipment. Moving violations are generally more severe than non-moving violations and attract more sanctions from the government.

If you break any of the laws and get pulled over by the police, you will be given a ticket. Dismissing the tickets given to you depends on the violation in question. The DMV can write off some violations by attending a driver’s training class; some can be written off if you pay a fine, and others when you appear in court.

Examples of Driving Laws in Texas

Like other places in the US, Texas has general driving rules that apply, regardless of the place in question, and they have rules peculiar to their locale. Some of the general driving rules include:

  • U-Turns can only be done in places where it is safe and legal. Before performing a U-turn, you must see at least 500 meters in front and behind your vehicle. Making an inappropriate and unsafe U-turn can earn you a reckless driving ticket.
  • Headlights should be used when visibility is anywhere within 1,000 feet and at night. Using your headlight keeps you safe and prevents you from being issued a ticket. Driving in the rain and under foggy conditions also requires your use of headlights.
  • Do not park in a “No Parking” zone. Do not block entrances and emergency spots like water hydrants when you park. Doing so will earn you a ticket for a non-moving violation. Be especially careful when parking downtown or around busy metropolises, as they have higher fines and stricter parking rules.
  • Do not pass the speed limit. Crossing the speed limit is the easiest way to get a ticket, and every driver at one point or the other has been guilty of this, whether they were caught or not. The penalty for over speeding varies and becomes considerably higher if it leads to an accident. It can also add points to your driving record, and if you do not want the points added, you may have to attend a driver’s class.
  • Driving without insurance is prohibited and can get you fined heavily. First-time offenders can get up to $350 in fines. You also get to pay a surcharge for the next three years when renewing your vehicle registration. Second-time offenders can get a higher fine and risk getting their car impounded by the authorities. Your insurance should cover $60,000 for all injured people in an accident, $30,000 per person, and $25,000 for property damage.
  • Driving without a driver’s license, either because you forgot it, is invalid, or you do not have one, is a punishable offense. The first time a person is pulled over, they can get a fine of $200, and it gets higher with each breaking of this law. Always ensure your license is on you whenever you are driving. If you tend to forget it, you can keep it somewhere safe in your car.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) is serious. First-time offenders may be charged up to $2,000. Recurrent offenders can get higher fines, risk losing their freedom to drive, risk losing their license for up to 90 days and may even serve a jail time between 72 hours to 180 days, depending on the severity. Drivers under 21 are expected to have less than 0.02% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) while driving, commercial drivers, less than 0.04%, while other private drivers, 0.08%. The best thing to do is not to drive after drinking.
  • Driving without seatbelts. When driving in Texas, adults sitting in the front must be buckled up, children between 0 and 5 years must be strapped in a child car seat appropriately, and children between 5 and 12 must use seat belts. Violation of any of these rules will get you tickets and fines. What is more important is your safety, so always ensure you are strapped in properly to reduce impact in case of an accident.
  • Texting and driving or operating your phone while driving is considered a distraction, and it causes one in every five accidents in the US. You can attract a fine of $200 to $500 if you are pulled over. If you must make a call, pull over to the shoulder of the road and make your call.
  • Running a red light is one of the most common violations in Texas and can attract fines between $75 and $200. Be more intentional about your surroundings and observant of the lights around you. If you drive at the recommended speed, you will get to the traffic light just in time to go and not have to wait on the green light. Driving through a yellow light in Texas is not a crime.

These are some of the general traffic laws that apply in Texas. Other traffic laws are peculiar to Texas and may appear strange to other parts of the world. Some of them include:

  • Driving a car without a windshield is not illegal, but it is illegal to drive without windshield wipers.
  • Nothing must protrude out of your car’s booth unless it is attached to your car with a chain.
  • It is unlawful to perform a U-turn in Richardson.
  • It is illegal to ride a horse in Texarkana without a tail light at night.
  • You cannot have alcohol within arm’s length while driving in Lubbock, even if other car occupants are consuming it.
  • In Galveston, driving down Broadway on Sundays before noon is illegal.

Penalties and Fees

If you are charged with any traffic offenses, you will be given a ticket, and it stands until you sort it out by paying a fine or appearing in court. The fines and penalties vary according to the court, and a delay in payment can give you additional late fees. If you violate a traffic law and it is added to your record, it stays there for three years. The US runs a point system where traffic violations add points to your license. These points remain in your records for three years and attract surcharges for those three years. Even if you commit a traffic violation in states other than Texas, the points are recorded in your Texas license.

If you are guilty of any moving violation, it adds two points to your record; three points would be added if the violation resulted in an accident. If you accumulate more than six points in your record within three years, you will be faced with surcharges.

Driving with an invalid license and without insurance can lead to a surcharge of $250 each. Driving without a license or an expired license will attract a surcharge of $100. These surcharges will be in your record for three years.

To avoid being pulled over for an expired license, ensure to renew your registration in Texas in due time. You can renew it at your local county or online. You can use service providers like Swift-tags to process your license. Swift-tags send you reminders when your license is about to expire, so you no longer have to drive with an expired license or in fear of being pulled over by the police.

Defensive Driving Course

When minor traffic violations are committed, they can be written off if you attend the defensive driving course. However, before applying for the course, you must not have taken a driving course at least one year before your violation. You must not be in possession of a commercial driver’s license, and you must not be currently enrolled in a driving course for other violations.

Cases like no car insurance, illegally passing a school bus, hit and run, driving at 25 mph or more above the speed limit, or violations around construction zones cannot be forgiven even if you attend a defensive driving course.

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