New law could give jail time to Texas drivers who hit pedestrians

Torry’s law is named after a Houston mother who was killed in a crosswalk by an inattentive driver
The new law is named after Torry Smith, a Houston area mom killed by a negligent driver.
The new law is named after Torry Smith, a Houston area mom killed by a negligent driver.(TxDOT)
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 10:40 AM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - Courtesy of TxDot: Beginning Wednesday, Sep. 1st, a new Texas law takes effect that allows inattentive drivers to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if they cause bodily harm to a pedestrian. And if the pedestrian is seriously injured, drivers may be found guilty of a state jail felony.

The new law was inspired by a tragedy: On June 18, Gov. Greg Abbot signed into law Senate Bill 1055, or the Lisa Torry Smith Act.

Named for a late Houston area mom who was killed in a crosswalk by a negligent driver while she was taking her son to school, the new law seeks to protect not only pedestrians but also cyclists and people operating motor-assisted scooters, neighborhood electric vehicles, or golf carts.

The driver in Lisa Torry Smith’s crash was able to walk away from killing Lisa and injuring her son without facing any criminal charges. Under the new law that takes effect Sept. 1st, however, Texas drivers can now be criminally responsible if they collide with a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

The new law further requires drivers to stop and yield to pedestrians or cyclists who are properly in an intersection.

The Texas Department of Transportation reports that pedestrian deaths account for one in five of all traffic fatalities.

In 2020, there were 4,852 traffic crashes involving pedestrians in Texas, resulting in 731 fatalities and 1,211 serious injuries.

From 2016 to 2020, pedestrian fatalities resulting from traffic crashes increased 5%.

With all of this in mind and with the Labor Day weekend coming up (when more drivers will be on Texas roadways and more pedestrians and bicyclists will be out), TxDOT is launching its “Be Safe. Drive Smart” pedestrian and bicycle safety campaign.

As Texans travel to their destinations over the holiday weekend (and beyond), TxDOT wants them to know the laws for safe walking, biking, and driving—and to follow them.

Drivers are required to take specific steps to protect pedestrians and bicyclists, who are more likely to be killed or seriously injured when involved in a crash with a motor vehicle.

State laws mandate stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks, yielding the right of way to pedestrians and bicyclists when turning, and passing bicyclists at a safe distance and giving them room to ride.

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