Open container ban starts Labor Day weekend

Labor Day drivers in and around the Heart of Texas will face stepped-up law enforcement activity and a long-awaited open container law to combat drinking and driving. The new open container law, along with several other important law changes, go into effect Sept. 1, just as DPS and other law enforcement increase patrols for the Labor Day weekend. A tougher, expanded Administrative License Revocation (ALR) law also goes into effect the same day. “Alcohol and cars don’t mix, period,” said DPS Director Col. Thomas Davis Jr. “The Legislature has given law enforcement a much-needed open container law to help us drive that point home.” As part of Operation CARE (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) a nationwide effort by all state police agencies to reduce fatalities during holiday periods, all available troopers will actively search for drunk drivers, speeders and seat belt violators Labor Day weekend. The increased patrols will take place between 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31 through midnight Monday, Sept. 3. House Bill 5 makes it a Class C misdemeanor to possess an open container in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. It also strengthens the punishment for repeat DWI offenses. A second DWI conviction within five years now requires a mandatory one-year suspension of the offender’s driver license. Upon reinstatement, they must have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle for an additional year. During the suspension, the offender is not even eligible for an occupational license to drive to work. DPS has observed that in the majority of alcohol-related crashes that an open container is present. The law also reinforces that it is illegal to drink while driving. “These new laws are just the most recent indication that the people of Texas are fed up with the death and destruction drunk drivers cause,” said Davis. “The bottom line is that responsible citizens don’t drive drunk.” House Bill 63, which also takes effect Sept. 1, requires law enforcement officers to confiscate the driver license of anyone charged with DWI-and increases suspensions outlined in the ALR laws. For example, if a driver refuses a breath test they now face a driver license suspension of six months’double amount of time allotted in the prior law. The updated statute applies ALR punishments to boating while intoxicated if the suspect refuses a breath test. In that circumstance, boaters also face confiscation of their driver license and possible license suspensions. “We are hosting a class for area law enforcement officers here in Brady next week to become more familiar with all of the new changed laws that will go into effect Sept. 1,” said Brady Police Chief John Stewart. “There are numerous laws that have either changed or are completely new and the Concho Valley Council of Governments is going to be putting the class on next week.” Another law that will affect parents is the seatbelt requirements for children. Effective Sept. 1, all children under the age of four or less than 36 inches tall must be restrained in a child safety seat while riding in either the front seat or back seat of a motor vehicle. Children ages four years through 16 years are required to wear a safety belt no matter where they are seated in a vehicle. Individuals 17 years of age and older must wear safety belts while riding in the front seat, and children under the age of 18 may not occupy the bed of a truck or trailer. Other bills that will become law on Sept. 1 include: ‘ HB 1739 which increases the minimum fines for violating the car seat law from $25 to $100. If a judge opts for probation, the offender would have to take a special TEA-approved child seat and seat belt education course. ‘ HB 299 authorizes the Texas Transportation Commission to establish a daytime speed limit of 75 miles per hour on highways located in counties with a population density of less than 10 persons per square mile. ‘ SB 968 establishes a six-month driver license suspension for a second conviction of gas theft. ‘ HB 2134 creates a specific offense for operating a motor vehicle emitting excessive smoke, visible for at least 10 seconds. ‘ HB 1544 makes it a Class B misdemeanor to directly solicit business or employment based on information derived from accident records or related records. The texts of these bills can be found at www.capitol.state.tx.us . Select the enrolled version.

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