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8/13/2007
Texas: Sleeping in a Vehicle Passenger Seat To be a Crime
As part of a number of new Texas driving laws, sleeping while a learning driver is behind the wheel is a crime.

Sleeping passenger. Photo: Colin Ashe/Flickr
Falling asleep in the passenger seat of a car with a teenage driver behind the wheel may soon be a crime in Texas. As one of a number of new laws, the prohibition on passenger napping when a learner is behind the wheel takes effect September 1.

Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), introduced the legislation to ensure an adult is paying attention to the driving of an inexperienced motorist. A crime is committed if anyone in the passenger seat happens to nod off while a teen is behind the wheel -- even if there is an alert adult in the back seat. Moreover, the offense also applies to anyone in the passenger seat who is drunk or "engaged in an activity that prevents the person from observing and responding to the actions of the operator." The law only allows sleeping in the passenger seat if at least one other awake person is sharing the seat.

The state legislature also voted to deny motorists the ability to avoid a speeding ticket by going to traffic school when stopped for driving 15 MPH over the limit on the state's highest-speed interstates. This measure, HB 586, passed the state legislature without opposition in May.

Other measures that will take effect include laws restricting the use of red light cameras and a requirement that motorist over the age of 85 re-apply for a driver's license every two years instead of every six. Drivers 79 and older must go to the Department of Motor Vehicles in person and may no longer obtain a license renewal online.

Article Excerpt:
S.B. No. 153

AN ACT relating to the creation of an offense involving the supervision of a vehicle operator holding an instruction permit.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Section 521.222, Transportation Code, is amended by adding Subsections (g) and (h) to read as follows:
(g) A person who occupies the seat in a vehicle by a holder of an instruction permit commits an offense if, while the holder is operating the vehicle, the person:
(1) sleeps;
(2) is intoxicated, as defined by Section 49.01, Penal Code; or
(3) is engaged in an activity that prevents the person from observing and responding to the actions of the operator.
(h) It is a defense to prosecution of a violation under Subsection (g) that at the time of the violation another person in addition to the defendant:
(1) occupied the seat by the operator;
(2) complied with the requirements of Subsections (d)(2)(A)-(C); and
(3) was not in violation of Subsection (g).
SECTION 2. This Act takes effect September 1, 2007.


I hereby certify that S.B. No. 153 passed the Senate on March 14, 2007, by the following vote: Yeas 30, Nays 0.
Secretary of the Senate

I hereby certify that S.B. No. 153 passed the House on May 16, 2007, by the following vote: Yeas 145, Nays 0, two present not voting.
Chief Clerk of the House


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