Law prohibiting cell phone use in school zones now in effect
By Robin Scott
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has recently hung the required warning signs prohibiting the use of cell phones in school zones, which means that the law is now effective.
The Texas Legislature passed several new laws during its last session that became effective on September 1st. Now that the warning signs are up, the Dalhart Police Department, Dallam County Sheriff’s Office, Hartley County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Public Safety officers in the area are authorized to issue citations for violations of the “no cell phone” law.
The new law makes it illegal for drivers to use a cell phone or other wireless communication device while driving within school zones. A driver may make emergency 911 calls, which is a defense to enforcement of the new law. Drivers may also operate those devices if they are stopped or parked in a school zone and drivers may continue to use hands-free devices within school zones without violating the law.
The warning signs inform drivers that using a wireless communication device is prohibited and the operator is subject to a $200 fine. The new law not only demands that drivers not talk on cell phones, but not text either.
As a reminder, another new law that affects all drivers requires all occupants in a vehicle, regardless of age, to wear a safety belt. Additionally, any child younger than eight years of age must be restrained in an approved child passenger safety seat unless the child is at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. The legislature has created a grace period for the child passenger safety seat law. Warnings may be issued by law enforcement beginning September 1st, but tickets may not be issued until June 1, 2010. The grace period allows the public to adjust to the change in the law; however, abiding by the law now is encouraged.
Hartley County Sheriff Franky Scott and his deputies have jurisdiction over the school zone with the greatest amount of traffic on Highway 87 South near both Dalhart High School and Dalhart Junior High School. Sheriff Scott noted earlier this year, “People do need to be aware to slow down during school zone hours and we will be out there as a visual reminder that school is back in session.” Last Friday, Dalhart Police Chief Tom Sanford stated, “The City of Dalhart has stated that they do want this law enforced, so we will be out there issuing citations.”