Texas Online Courses

Child Safety Seat Guidelines Change in Feb. 2014

Changes in national child safety seat guidelines for drivers will take effect on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system requirements for forward-facing child safety seats tethered to car seats has been updated.

The current design mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has manufacturers installing two bottom and one top anchor point. In front-facing car seats where the combined weight of the child and the seat are more than 65 pounds, the bottom tethers will soon be eliminated, and parents will be required to strap in the car seat with a safety belt instead. The guidelines currently apply to children 65 pounds or more, not including the seat’s weight. The issue is that seats made for kids three years and older can’t always handle the weight, and may fail in a crash.

In Texas, kids eight years old or younger and those under four feet, nine inches tall are required to sit in a child safety seat in a vehicle. Rear-facing seats for children under one year, 35 pounds or both are recommended by the Texas Department of Transportation to ensure maximum safety. Kids from one to four years and up to 40 pounds can use a forward-facing safety seat.

Children over four must continue to use a safety seat until they are more than 40 pounds, but may use a booster seat until they are eight. Children in this group who are not using a booster seat will be affected by the new federal guidelines.

Safety belts can sometimes be uncomfortable for kids who are tall enough or old enough to sit with a seatbelt only. Try moving children closer to the center of the seat, towards the buckle, to prevent the shoulder harness from rubbing their necks.

It’s important for parents and guardians to make sure that their car seats, safety seats and seatbelts conform to state and federal guidelines designed to keep kids safe. Airbags in vehicles are designed to protect adults and, when deployed in an accident, can harm children. Failure to follow Texas child restraint laws carries a traffic ticket with a $25 fine for the first offense. After that, fines are up to $250 for each violation.

Teen Drivers With Teen Passengers Have a Higher Risk of Fatality

In Texas, drivers in training must complete a minimum of seven hours of observation time in the car with an instructor and another seven hours behind the wheel. This may not be enough to keep teen drivers safe once they have their licenses and are on the road when they have at least one other teen in the car. According to results of a study recently released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 17 have fatal crashes with teen-age passengers about eight times more frequently than young adults between 18 and 24 years old with teens in the car. While the total number of crash deaths has dropped in the past ten years, the number of fatalities where teen passengers were present has risen dramatically.

Using statistics from 2011, the study showed a 30 percent rise from 200. While reasons for the trend were not defined, it was noted by the author of the study that the rise in popularity of text messaging mirrored the increase in fatal crashes with teen passengers.

Distracted driving impacts younger drivers for two main reasons – because they have less experience behind the wheel and because their brains are still not fully developed. According to TTI, the portion of the brain responsible for making decisions and understanding the consequences of poor judgment is not fully developed until about age 25.

There are several ways that parents of teens can help their children to be more responsible drivers without the distractions associated with teen passengers.

  • Limit the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle, especially teen-agers.
  • Remind teens that drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts during the operation of a vehicle. The state of Texas enforces fines of $250 for unbelted drivers and up to $200 for unbelted passengers, depending on their age.
  • Sign up teens for an online driving school course which meets the state requirements for parent-taught driver education instruction. A course teaching defensive driving online in Texas can also increase awareness and help teens to reduce risk.
  • Have your child measure and learn the dimensions of the vehicle they will be driving most often to minimize the chances of finding out by hitting other vehicles.
  • Practice smooth starts, stops and lane changes while an experienced adult driver is in the car.

To learn more about teen driver safety and defensive driving in Texas, contact Teas Drive Safe at 1-800-558-9887.

 

DUI Costs More Than Just Losing Your License

There are many downsides to being pulled over  in Texas for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Aside from the loss of your driver’s license and potential jail time if you’re convicted, there are several other inconveniences and expenses associated with this traffic offense in Texas that most people don’t realize until it happens to them.

Fees

Some of the costs involved in a DWI charge, arrest and conviction include bail, court fees and impound fees. While posting bail requires that only a small percentage of the actual amount be presented, it can run from as little as $150 to more than $2,000, depending on your personal circumstances. The vehicle you were driving at the time of your arrest will be towed and impounded. Expect to pay at least $100 for the towing fee, depending on your location. Each municipality is different on impound fees. The City of Dallas, for example, charges a $20 administrative fee, plus $20 per day. After 48 hours, you will also be charged a $50 impound notification fee. Proof of auto insurance must be provided before the vehicle is released, which can prolong the process and incur additional charges.

Legal Costs

Finding a decent DUI attorney to represent you won’t come cheap. While some offer a free initial consultation, many do the actual work through a retainer after accepting your case. An expert witness for your case can cist between $2,000 to $7,000. Each time you or your attorney must appear in court, you must pay court costs. Appeals and certain types of continuances can escalate your court costs and your attorney’s fees.

Standard DWI Fines and Fees

Upon conviction of your first DWI, you can be fined up to $2,000. If you want to retain your driver’s license and the judge allows it, you can pay a $1,000 fee for one year, or $2,000 for three years. After your second offense, those fines increase to as much as $4,000 for your conviction, and a yearly fee of $1,000 or $1,500, or $2,000 for a three-year driver’s license retention fee.

Additional Fines

Aside from a typical DWI, those with an open container of alcohol in the vehicle face an additional fine of up to $500. If there is one passenger or more under the age of 15 in the vehicle, the driver can receive a fine of up to $10,000.

Additional Expenses

If you are convicted of a DWI inTexas, you may opt to take aTexasdefensive driving course to reduce your sentence if the judge allows it. The court may require you to have an interlock device installed on your vehicle. If you are unable to drive yourself where you need to go because your driver’s license is suspended, you may need to pay others or use public transportation. You will have to pay a reinstatement fee to the state once your suspension is complete.

Insurance

Drivers convicted of DWI inTexashave higher insurance rates. Expect to pay at least an additional $4,500 over the next three to five years after your driving privileges are reinstated.

Employment

Some jobs are associated with the ability to drive or to carry a commercial driver’s license. For example, a taxicab driver or truck driver will likely lose their employment completely, while someone whose occupation is sedentary or office-bound may not be affected at all. Some companies consider any type of conviction as a security risk and may revoke your security clearance. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, such as whether someone was maimed or killed, it could pose a problem for future employers.

Cars Without Drivers Could Hit the Road By 2020

Vehicles without drivers could soon be a reality. They are in development by a number of auto manufacturers, including Ford, Toyota, Volvo, General Motors, Daimler, Audi and Nissan. A handful of states, including Florida, California and Nevada have already enacted legislation that allows driver-less cars on the road. Experts at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) 2012 Driver-less Car Summit predict that fully automated vehicles will be on the road by 2020. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) expects approximately three-quarters of all vehicles on the road by 2040 to be unmanned by human drivers.

Following the Trends

While there are several legal and logistical obstacles to overcome before driver-less cars hit the roadways, many of today’s vehicles are already heading toward automation. Some current models use automated technology to help drivers navigate their cars. For example, some luxury vehicles offer automated parallel parking controls, warnings to correct lane wandering and automatic braking to avoid obstacles ahead to help human drivers reduce their chances of crashing. A poll among U.S. auto insurance companies shows that vehicles with forward collision alert systems or automatic braking in place are currently involved in fewer accidents.

On the Highway

According to MIT Review, some future vehicles within the next decade will be able to drive on the highway without human assistance. Scanners, sensors and radars are expected to be at the backbone of this major step in vehicle technology. One foreseeable danger for driver-less operation is not in the ability of automated systems to control speed and direction, but in cases where human drivers can intervene and suddenly take over the controls after sitting back and enjoying the ride.

In the City

Another step toward driver-less cars may come in the form of new technology for intersections. Most roadway intersections today are already managed by automated controls. New protocols can further reduce traffic congestion and make fuel economy in city driving conditions more efficient.

Perception

One obstacle to implementing driver-less vehicles on the road, however, is the public image of safety and the ability to get from Point A to Point B without crashes or other incidents. Reliability and benefits are among the frontrunners in consumer concerns. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that presently, about 90 percent of recent roadway crashes are caused by human error, so a reduction in human controls may be the answer to reducing the number of accidents.

During the next decade, the importance of human drivers paying attention to the road and avoiding distractions remains high. Today’s drivers will still need to operate their vehicles safely and within the confines of driving laws. To learn more about how you can improve your skills with an online defensive driving course in Texas, contact Texas Drive Safe customer support at 1-800-558-9887.

National Teen Driver Safety Week Encourages Responsible Habits

More than 5,000 teens are killed in car accidents every year, making fatal auto-related crashes the number one cause of teen deaths, according to organizers of National Teen Driver Safety Week. Drivers 16 to 19 years old are four times more likely to be involved in fatalities than their counterparts in the 25 to 69 age group.

During National Teen Driver Safety Week, held Oct. 20 though 26, 2013, encourages awareness and provides a forum for teens to help lower these startling statistics. Here are several ways to improve teen driving habits and lessen the chances of being in an automobile accident.

House Rules

Parents can help their young drivers to be safer by spending more time teaching them the importance of careful driving. Implementing house rules can do just that. Some ideas include restricting when and where they take the car, as well as who is riding along with them while they’re on the road. In order for house rules to work, young drivers need to follow their parents’ guidelines and avoid distracted driving.

Defensive Driving Techniques

A Texas defensive driving course can teach them the techniques and concepts that provide a solid foundation for better skills and habits that they can use now and in their future years behind the wheel.

Speed Management

Obeying the speed limit and slowing down further during inclement weather gives drivers a better chance of reacting favorably to road hazards.

Avoiding Distractions

Keeping the phone turned off and the music turned down to a low level minimizes distractions. Limiting the number of passengers is another safety option.   Some states have graduated driver licensing for teen drivers which limits the possibility of distractions by restricting certain passengers, mobile device use, and acceptable drive times.   

Statistics from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute found that three-quarters of serious teen driving crashes were caused by a critical error on the driver’s part. Just under half of the crashes were caused by going too fast for the present road conditions while exceeding the speed limit, not detecting hazards early enough for an appropriate reaction and when drivers were distracted by something outside or inside their vehicles. By increasing their focus on driving safely, teens can make the roads a less dangerous place to be not only during National Teen Driver Safety Week, but every day of the year.

Be Smart When Ordering a Texas Driving Record

Don’t Be Fooled When Buying a Texas Driver Record

A Bit Confusing

Many drivers find the whole ticket process a bit confusing, and unfortunately there are defensive driving course providers out there that are trying to take advantage of it, especially when it comes to ordering your driving record.  Many drivers who request permission to take a state approved Texas driving safety course (a.k.a. Texas defensive driving) from a court are required to also get a copy of their driving record to turn in before their deadline date.

Many are confused by this step and don’t understand if they should order the driving record before, after, or during their defensive driving course.   The answer is that it doesn’t matter as long as it is ordered so that it is in hand when it comes time to turn it in along with your defensive driving certificate and any other court required documents on or before your deadline.  I would recommend not procrastinating and ordering it right away to avoid the possibility of forgetting to do it.

Buyer Beware

So with many drivers confused about the process, unfortunately there are many online defensive driving course providers in Texas out there that offer a driving record ordering service and charge $25-$35 to do so.  This fee is in addition to the fee they charge for their defensive driving course.  Also, many of them tell the customer that it can take days to weeks for the driving record to be received.  This would be a perfectly good add on service for these companies to offer, if it wasn’t for the fact that any person with a valid Texas drivers license can simply go online to the website for the State of Texas (www.Texas.gov) and order and print off a certified copy of their driving record in minutes for as little as $12.  There is no added service being provided.  In many cases customers are paying more to get the driving record to get it slower than if they just purchased it for themselves on Texas.gov.  So this is how to order your driving record:

Step 1.  Go to www.Texas.gov and click on the link for “Driver Records”

Step 2.  Click “Continue” on the welcome screen

Step 3.  Make sure your device is setup to print and check the “I agree” box on the requirements page.

Step 4.  Enter your drivers license information to login.

Step 5.  Request the “Type 3A” driving record and fill out the address information.

 

 Step 6.  Review and pay for your record.

Step 7.  Print out your driving record.

Watch out for these slick defensive driving providers taking advantage of the uneducated consumer by overcharging for driving records.  Save money and get it sooner by ordering it yourself.

Further Relief from Surcharges for Low Income Drivers in Texas

On Wednesday the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced the launch of a new program aimed at expanding on an existing program set to assist poor drivers that have unpaid surcharges under the current Driver Responsibility Program.

Driver Responsibility Program Details

The Driver Responsibility Program authorizes the Texas DPS to assess surcharges to drivers based upon traffic offenses that occurred before September 1st, 2003.  (Learn more details by downloading the Driver Responsibility Pamphlet).  These surcharges are separate from any fees paid to the court for a particular ticket and can occur for No Insurance convictions, driving while intoxicated, and based upon annual driver record reviews.  A surcharge is assessed if a driver’s record indicates:

  1.  Six or more points, or
  2. There is an underlying conviction for the surcharge within the past 3 years.

Options for Low Income Drivers with Surcharges

Since 2011 the DPS has had an Indigency program, which reduces surcharges owed by individuals if their income is at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.  This program can reduce the surcharge amount by 10 percent up to a maximum of $250.  An article yesterday by the Texas Tribune reports that as much as 60 percent of surcharge fines went uncollected.  So in an effort to bring further relief to those without the financial means to pay for their surcharges, the DPS has added a new Incentive Program.  This new option is available to individuals with incomes above 125 percent and below 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.  That amounts to incomes between $29,437 and $70,650 per year for a family of four.

Destination for the Funds

The funds generated by the surcharges are forwarded to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts who distributes 99 percent to the Trauma Center and Texas General Revenue Fund.  The remaining 1 percent goes to the DPS for administering the program.  There are critics of the Driver Responsibility Program who argue that it doesn’t improve driver safety and that the state has been unsuccessful in collection funds resulting in over 1 million driver license suspensions since 2003.   Most in the Health Care industry disagree in large part with those criticisms since the funds from the program helps trauma care in emergency hospitals across Texas.  Just last session there was a legislative effort to repeal the Driver Responsibility Program, but their efforts thus far have been unsuccessful.

Remember that one of the best ways to keep traffic citations off your record is to elect to complete a state approved defensive driving (a.k.a) Texas driver safety course.

Click here to read the full story in the Texas Tribune

School Bus Drivers Get More Authority in Texas

Trouble Makers on the Bus

Senate Bill 1541 which was passed in the most recent Texas legislative session created a new law giving Texas school bus drivers the ability to more effectively protect the safety of their riders by authorizing the use of disciplinary action. The new law establishes requirements for school districts in Texas to modify their student code of conduct to include the repercussions that occur for being removed from a school bus for disciplinary reasons.  The law also gives bus drivers the ability to remove trouble making students and send them directly to the principal’s office, whereby the principal may act as stipulated in the new district code of conduct. According to a story posted on aft.org (American Federation of Teachers), poor student behavior on the school buses in some routes had become a real serious safety problem for all the passengers.  When an incident would occur, the students responsible for the problem were not being held accountable since they did not perceive the bus driver to be on the same level as a teacher from a disciplinary perspective.  The schools and principals were failing to hold students accountable and in many cases, the school personnel would hold the bus drivers ultimately responsible and punish them instead of the students by cutting routes and shortening their drive times.

Greater Authority for Improved Bus Safety

After numerous attempts to bring these safety issues to school official’s attention and empty promises to provide satisfactory remedies, bus drivers in Houston tried other means to get help.  They staged rallies, and held news conferences to shed light on this serious issue.  As a result Senate Bill 1541 was passed.  “I want to give a shout-out to all our bus drivers, aides and all the other support personnel here in Houston for the job they did, not only in getting the law passed but in performing their duties under pressure.  I’m proud of the bus drivers because they’ve been getting the kids home safely,” said Wretha Thomas, President of the Houston Educational Support Personnel.  Only time will tell if providing bus drivers with more disciplinary authority will improve student conduct.

2013 Driver Safety Rankings for Texas Cities

Texas Driver Safety City Rankings

Driving on many Texas roadways can be a bit of an adventure.  Depending on the city where you happen to be driving, you may find the drivers to be less friendly, aggressive, or in a bigger hurry than other cities. Especially if you don’t normally driver in the busy cities and are used to the slow paced rural farm to market roads in many small Texas towns.  When you get on a freeway in Dallas, Houston, or Austin, you will likely feel like it is time to grab the wheel tight and get ready for just about anything.   So what city in Texas do you think has the safest drivers?  Which city’s drivers need to be sent to the nearest state approved Texas driver safety course?

Referencing an Insurance study by Allstate, the Dallas Morning News wrote an article recently that ranked where many Texas cities ranked based on insurance claims filed.  The rankings report uses the 200 largest cities in the United States and provides how much more or less likely drivers in that city are to be involved in a collision when compared to the national average.  So what Texas city is the safest according to this report?    Fort Worth. 

Unfortunately the rankings don’t say much about the driver safety skills of Texas drivers since Fort Worth only ranked 138 out of 200.  Drivers in Fort Worth are 20.6% more likely to be involved in a vehicular crash than the national average, with an average span of 8 years between crashes.    Dallas for example was ranked 170 out of 200 and drivers there are 35.6% more likely to be involved in a crash.  In the ever competitive nature of Houston and Dallas, Houston wins the driver safety battle with a ranking of 151 out of 200.   Still not too good though when compared to cities outside of the state.  The worst city in Texas on the list was Garland.  So make sure you have your seat belt fastened and your hands at ten and two the next time you are going through Garland.

Click here to check out the full story in the Dallas Morning News.

Back-to-School Tips for Young Drivers and Their Parents

With the new school year getting underway, there are several items that you, as a parent of a young driver, can put on your back-to-school checklist as reminders to improve safety and legal compliance.

                       

The first thing to verify is that the vehicle your young driver will be operating is current with its registration and inspection. The State of Texas has several services integrated into its website, Texas.gov/Driver, to help parents with registration and maintenance. We encourage you to check it out.

Renewals
You or your young driver can renew your driver’s license and your vehicle registration online. You’re also able to update the address on file if you have moved. Keep in mind that state law gives you just 30 days to correct your address.

Graduated Drivers License Restrictions
Remember that Texas has graduated drivers license rules. If you have a driver under the age of 18 that is still in phase 1 or 2 of the graduated drivers license program, click here for some fast facts. Just some quick reminders here:

  1.  Once a driver has reached their 16th birthday, completed a driver education course, and held a driving permit for at least 6 months, they are eligible for phase
  2. Phase 2 of the program has the following restrictions for 6 months:
    1. The driver may not have more than one passenger under 21 who is not a family member
    2. The driver may not operate a vehicle after midnight and before 5 a.m. unless required for school, employment, or medical emergency.

NOTE: The previous restrictions don’t apply if the provisional license holder is accompanied by a licensed operator age 21 or older in the front seat.

Driver Safety Refresher
Parents should consider having their young driver take a Texas defensive driving course to refresh and remind them of the important safety strategies that will help them stay safe behind the wheel. Defensive driving courses are not only reserved for tickets, they can be used as a preventative measure.