UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

Don’t dial and drive: Police crack down on seat belt and cell phone uses

bumperstickersJeffry Tupa

The Signal Staff

Major legal changes and additions have been made to traffic and criminal laws as of Sept. 1. Ignorance of the new laws will not save drivers from getting a ticket either.

University of Houston-Clear Lake students should pay particular attention to the new laws involving cell phones and seat belts.

Drivers who talk on a cell phone while driving, heads up; tickets will be issued for talking on  cell phones while in a school zone. Children between 5 and 8 years old no longer used to riding in a booster seat may now be required to do so depending on the child’s height. The new law requires that children 8 years and under use a booster seat if they do not meet a 4 feet, 9 inch height requirement.

Picture this, a mother is trying to get her 7-year-old child to school on time and she answers her phone while driving. Two blocks away from the school, a cop pulls her over for violating two new laws: 1) talking on her cell phone in a school zone; and 2) not having the child in a booster seat. On top of that, the child was late for school.
Good news, parents!  If the seven-year-old child is about the size of his or her mother in height, the child doesn’t have to use a booster seat. But for all the other parents, the Texas Department of Public Safety will wait until June 1, 2010, before cracking down on this new law.

Children are not the only ones who need to buckle up. Adult passengers in the back seat of a vehicle must also be buckled.

From now on students will have to be extremely careful about how many friends they can offer a ride. If a car has five seatbelts, it can only carry five passengers, including the driver.

The days of students packing 10 people into a six-passenger car are no more. It would be like driving around in a clown car, but not as funny. Violators can be fined $25 for the first person not buckled and then a $250 dollar fine for each person not buckled in the car after that.

UHCL students with teenage children will want to pay attention to new laws HB 2730 and HB 339, which restrict all drivers under the age of 18 from using a wireless communication device at all.

The new laws involving cell phones and texting for teenagers may very well be expanded eventually to includ all Texas. For now the state of Texas has targeted teenage drivers because of their inexperience. Of any group, teens should pay more attention to their driving, not less.

In other states, this law has already included adult drivers. In Utah, people who text and drive can face up to 15 years in prison.

For more information on new laws recently passed in the state of Texas, involving cell phones, seat belts, driving while intoxicated, firearms and dogfighting, go to              www.txdps.state.tx.us.