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Texas traffic law requires drivers to slow down

Jan. 29, 2004

By Chase Swearingen, reporter

Due to the last regular session of the Texas Legislature in September, motorists throughout the state must slow down when approaching stopped emergency vehicles or face the consequences.

Senate Bill 193 went into effect Sept.1, 2003, along with many other laws focused on improving highway safety.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, SB 193 states that drivers nearing a stopped emergency vehicle with its lights activated, unless otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer, to vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle, or slow to a speed 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit. When the posted speed limit is less then 25 mph, the motorist must slow to 5 mph.

Emergency vehicles designated with this law include police, emergency medical service and fire vehicles.

If motorists violate the new law, they could get a maximum fine of $200. If the violation results in any kind of property damage, the maximum fine increases to $500. If the violation results in bodily injury, the offense is changed to a Class B misdemeanor.

Lori Scott, the mother of Baylor student Rose Scott, was unaware of the new law when police officers pulled her over in Fort Worth for violating SB 193. Scott faced the possibility of having two tickets issued to her. A fine of $210 was given to her for endangering an officer, and a second one, totaling to more then $150 also was given for not yielding on the shoulder.

Both tickets were dismissed Jan. 23 when Scott went to the Fort Worth Police Department to petition her ticket.

'I plan on telling others about the new law,' Scott said. 'If you don't watch television regularly or listen to the radio, you don't even hear about it. ... We need to all spread the word, and stop people from unknowingly breaking the law.'

Of 100 Baylor students polled in a random campuswide survey, 83 said they were unaware of the new law. This could mean a large percentage of Baylor students unknowingly may break the law and receive a hefty fine.

The new law's main purpose is not to fine unknowing motorists, but to protect the police officers and the cars they have pulled over, according to local police officers.

'The new law is for the safety of the officers making the traffic stop,' Waco police officer Steve Anderson, said. 'There are people constantly flying down the highways, going 70 mph or more and slamming into police cars on the side of the roads.'