Drivers in Texas Pedestrian Accidents Could Face Criminal Charges and Jail Time
According to data from the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT), pedestrian fatalities account for one in five traffic accident deaths in the state. More than 600 pedestrians are killed each year and at least 1,300 victims are left seriously injured. Unless the driver who struck the pedestrian was committing a crime, such as driving under the influence, the most serious consequence the driver could face was a traffic citation. But a new law that went into effect September 1 changes all that – drivers who hit a pedestrian can now face criminal charges.
The Lisa Torry Smith Act
Under the new law, a driver who hits and injures a pedestrian who is legally using a crosswalk can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If the victim suffers serious injuries, the charges can be upgraded to a state jail felony. In addition to pedestrians, the law also applies to victims using bikes, electronic personal assistive mobility devices, golf carts, motor-assisted scooters, and wheelchairs.
The law was named after Lisa Torry Smith, a Missouri City woman who was killed in 2017 while she was walking her six-year-old son to school. The two were struck as they were walking in a crosswalk. Her son suffered a shattered pelvis and broken femur from the impact of the vehicle.
Although the case was eventually presented to a grand jury, there was no indictment in the case. The driver who was responsible for the accident was only ticketed. Under the new law, he would have faced state jail felony charges, given the nature of the injuries suffered by the victims.
Under Texas law, a person convicted of a Class A misdemeanor faces up to one year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines. A state-felony conviction means a minimum of 180 days in jail up to two years. The defendant can also receive a fine of up to $10,000.
Many pedestrian accidents are the result of drivers who fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks, engaging in distracted driving, or speeding. With this new law, it is important for drivers to remember the following in order to decrease the risk of causing a pedestrian accident. Not only can it result in the tragic injury or death of a victim, but the driver will now likely find themselves serving some amount of jail time:
Always yield the right of way to pedestrians when turning.
Always stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
Always be alert for pedestrians when passing buses or other vehicles that have stopped.
Always obey the speed limit and drive to road and weather conditions.
Always keep focused on the road and do not engage in any distracted driving activities.
Contact a Denton County Defense Attorney
If you have been involved in a pedestrian accident and are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced Plano, TX criminal lawyer defending you and protecting your future. Call The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. at 214-303-9600 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.