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Traffic Laws

Austin & Texas (summary)

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Helmet Laws

Cyclists' right to the road handout

Statewide Helmet Laws (Texas)

As part of the Matthew Brown Act (HB2203), municipalities may not enact helmet laws for kids (16 & under) unless they have also instituted bike safety education in schools, and unless they have made provisions to provide helmets to children of low-income families.

A bill to require cyclists under 18 or under 15 to wear helmets failed in 1999 and 2003.

Failure of Statewide Helmet Laws

In 2003, HB 2488 would have required cyclists under 15 statewide to wear helmets but the bill died in committee.

In Spring 1999, a similar bill applying to cyclists under 18 statewide to wear helmets came very close to passing (sailing through both a House and Senate committee with almost no opposition), but died at the last minute after a second senate committee didn't pass it. Below is some historical information about the 1999 bill.


Date: 03/02/99
From: Texas Bicycle Coalition
 
Bill Carter [the bill's sponsor] has done his homework and gotten the support he needs to make this one work. Of course the only opposition was from two motorcyclists, and issues about details from the representative of the Texas Trial Lawyers and me.
 
There were the normal, medical, police, insurance, and crash survivors testifying. 22 for, 2 against, and 2 quibbling over details. Guess what will happen to this one.
 
Rep Carter did agree to make some changes in the wording and the bill is pending while he makes those changes.
 
If you want to make a difference write, call or write:
  1. HON. REP. BILL CARTER,
    Room GW.16, Capitol Building, Austin, TX 78701, (512) 463-0482
  2. Your specific legislator.
    Click here to find your specific legislator.

 

Position of the Texas Bicycle Coalation

Texas Bicycle Coalition, PO Box 1121, Austin TX 78767; 441-6056, 441-7138/fax.

 

Re: House Bill 673 which mandates protective bicycle safety helmet use for cyclists under the age of 18., filed by Representative Bill Carter
 
The mission of the Texas Bicycle Coalition (TBC) is to advance SAFETY, ACCESS and EDUCATION for cyclists in Texas. The Board of Directors of TBC recognizes the critical importance of protective bicycle helmets in a comprehensive bicycle safety program which includes elements of Engineering, Education and Enforcement.
 
In 1993 the Texas legislature passed HB 1978 which indicated the legislature's desire for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to produce a comprehensive bicycle safety curriculum. This bill was signed into law and became Chapter 758 of the Health and Safety Code. Unfortunately there was no funding provided for the development of the curriculum. In 1996, the DPS completed and published the curriculum, known as Neighborhood Adventures in Bicycle Safety, using federal funds administered by the Texas Department of Transportation. However, no funding was available for properly disseminating the curriculum and it has had limited effectiveness.
 
Legislation (HB 673) currently filed, proposes to amend Chapter 758 to make protective bicycle helmet use mandatory for cyclists under the age of 18.
 
The Texas Bicycle Coalition believes strongly in the use of a bicycle helmet for all cyclists and encourages inclusion of helmet discussions in all education programs. This belief is so strong that the Board has voted to support mandatory helmet legislation which meets the following criteria:
 
  • be limited to children under 16;
  • remove the criminal penalty and substitute some form of mandatory education or community service for the child and parent;
  • provide, at a minimum, funding for subsidizing the purchase of helmets for children whose family cannot afford to purchase said helmets;
  • go into effect no sooner than one year after a school district has fully implemented the state approved education curriculum created by Section 758 of the health and safety code which the Texas SuperCyclist Project is currently making available to all school districts in Texas with an expected completion date of September 30, 2002;
 
This proposed amendment does not recognize or provide for funding of the critical elements of a comprehensive bicycle safety program. In addition to a lack of funding for the elements of a bicycle safety campaign, this legislation also does not provide for funding to provide helmets to children whose parents are unable to purchase a helmet except through fines which a rudimentary analysis shows will not be a viable avenue of funding.
 
The effects of this proposed legislation are broad and include the following:
  • by setting the age limit to "under 18" instead of "under 16" will encourage cyclists old enough to get their license to drive instead of ride their bicycles which is in direct contravention of the policies of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Department of Health which encourage physical activity for children;
  • by creating a law that is difficult if not impossible to enforce creates a potential for selective enforcement and charges of discrimination as helmet usage in under served communities in Texas is significantly lower than in communities with more affluent populations;
  • by criminalizing a child for not wearing a helmet may create a limit to the monetary relief a parent may be able to receive if that child is injured through the negligence of another party;
The Texas Bicycle Coalition also has concerns relating to the right of a parent to provide for a child's safety. However, we recognize that there are valid precedents where, in the interests of the safety of the child, a government has passed laws regulating a parents rights, i.e., immunizations, child safety seats, etc.
 
The clause that limits the liability of a bicycle retailer or rental firm is a positive step and should be included in any legislation dealing with any bicycle safety equipment mandated by legislation.

Wording of the Proposed Law

The wording of proposals changes as bills make their way through committees. The current text of the law can be found on the Texas Legislature website.

This bill was sponsored by:

Bill Carter
Room GW.16, Capitol Building, Austin, TX 78701, (512) 463-0482
 
Harryette.Ehrhardt@house.state.tx.us
Room E2.422, Capitol Extension Austin, TX 78701 (512) 463-0476
 
Filed on 1/14/99 by Bill Carter:
   By Carter H.B. No.673
    76R3022 JRD-D
    A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
    1-1 AN ACT
    1-2 relating to requiring the use of protective helmets for bicycle
    1-3 safety; providing criminal penalties.
    1-4 BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
    1-5 SECTION 1. Section 758.001, Health and Safety Code, is
    1-6 amended to read as follows:
    1-7 Sec. 758.001. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:
    1-8 (1) "Bicycle" means a human-powered vehicle with two
    1-9 wheels in tandem designed to transport by a pedaling action of a
   1-10 person seated on a saddle seat.
   1-11 (2) "Department" means the Department of Public
   1-12 Safety.
   1-13 (3) "Operator" means a person who travels by pedaling
   1-14 on a bicycle seated on a saddle seat.
   1-15 (4) "Other public right-of-way" means any
   1-16 right-of-way, other than a public roadway or public bicycle path,
   1-17 that is accessible by the public and designed for use by vehicular
   1-18 or pedestrian traffic.
   1-19 (5) "Protective bicycle helmet" means headgear that
   1-20 meets or exceeds the impact standards for protective bicycle
   1-21 helmets set by the United States Consumer Product Safety
   1-22 Commission, the Snell Memorial Foundation, or an appropriate state
   1-23 agency.
   1-24 (6) "Public bicycle path" means a right-of-way under
    2-1 the jurisdiction and control of this state or a local political
    2-2 subdivision for use primarily by bicycles or by bicycles and
    2-3 pedestrians.
    2-4 (7) [(6)] "Public roadway" means a right-of-way under
    2-5 the jurisdiction and control of this state or a local political
    2-6 subdivision for use primarily by motor vehicles.
    2-7 [(7) "Tricycle" means a three-wheeled human-powered
    2-8 vehicle that is designed to have a seat no more than two feet from
    2-9 the ground and be used as a toy by a child younger than six years
   2-10 of age.]
   2-11 SECTION 2. Section 758.002(a), Health and Safety Code, is
   2-12 amended to read as follows:
   2-13 (a) The department may establish and administer a statewide
   2-14 bicycle safety education program and may adopt rules to implement
   2-15 the program. The program must include instruction concerning:
   2-16 (1) the safe handling and use of bicycles;
   2-17 (2) high risk traffic situations;
   2-18 (3) bicycle and traffic handling skills;
   2-19 (4) on-bike training;
   2-20 (5) correct use of protective bicycle helmets; and
   2-21 (6) traffic laws and regulations.
   2-22 SECTION 3. Section 758.003(b), Health and Safety Code, is
   2-23 amended to read as follows:
   2-24 (b) The fund may be used by the department only to:
   2-25 (1) defray the costs of administering this chapter;
   2-26 (2) provide a bicycle training course for a child
   2-27 younger than 10 years of age who comes from a low income family;
    3-1 and
    3-2 (3) if funding permits, assist children from low
    3-3 income families in purchasing protective bicycle helmets.
    3-4 SECTION 4. Chapter 758, Health and Safety Code, is amended
    3-5 by adding Sections 758.004, 758.005, 758.006, 758.007, 758.008, and
    3-6 758.009 to read as follows:
    3-7 Sec. 758.004. REQUIREMENTS FOR PROTECTIVE BICYCLE HELMET
    3-8 USE. (a) This section applies to the use of a bicycle on a public
    3-9 roadway, public bicycle path, or other public right-of-way.
   3-10 (b) A person younger than 18 years of age who is an operator
   3-11 or passenger on a bicycle shall wear a properly fitting protective
   3-12 bicycle helmet fastened securely on the head with the straps or
   3-13 other appropriate fastener of that helmet.
   3-14 (c) A parent or legal guardian of a person younger than 18
   3-15 years of age may not knowingly or recklessly permit the person to
   3-16 operate a bicycle or to be a passenger on a bicycle unless the
   3-17 person is wearing a protective bicycle helmet as prescribed by
   3-18 Subsection (b).
   3-19 Sec. 758.005. SALE OR RENTAL OF BICYCLES. (a) A person
   3-20 regularly engaged in the business of selling bicycles shall provide
   3-21 to each purchaser a written explanation of the requirement under
   3-22 Section 758.004 that a person wear a protective bicycle helmet.
   3-23 (b) A person may not rent a bicycle to another person
   3-24 unless:
   3-25 (1) each person who the person renting the bicycle
   3-26 knows will be an operator or passenger on the bicycle possesses a
   3-27 properly fitting protective bicycle helmet at the time the bicycle
    4-1 is rented; or
    4-2 (2) the rental agreement includes the provision of a
    4-3 properly fitting protective bicycle helmet for each operator or
    4-4 passenger.
    4-5 (c) A person who sells bicycles is not liable in civil
    4-6 damages for:
    4-7 (1) the failure to provide the written explanation of
    4-8 the law as required by Subsection (a); or
    4-9 (2) a bicycle operator's or passenger's failure to
   4-10 wear a protective bicycle helmet.
   4-11 (d) A person who rents bicycles to another in compliance
   4-12 with Subsection (b) is not liable in civil damages for a bicycle
   4-13 operator's or passenger's failure to wear a protective bicycle
   4-14 helmet.
   4-15 Sec. 758.006. CRIMINAL PENALTY. (a) A person commits an
   4-16 offense if the person violates Section 758.004 or 758.005.
   4-17 (b) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor
   4-18 punishable by a fine of $25, unless the actor has been convicted
   4-19 previously under this section, in which event an offense under this
   4-20 section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50.
   4-21 (c) A court may waive the fine imposed under this section
   4-22 for a violation of Section 758.004 if it is the person's first
   4-23 offense and the person presents proof to the court that the person
   4-24 did not have a protective bicycle helmet at the time of the
   4-25 violation but has since purchased or obtained a protective bicycle
   4-26 helmet.
   4-27 Sec. 758.007. FINES. The custodian of the county treasury
    5-1 shall keep a record of the amount of the fines collected under
    5-2 Section 758.006 and, on or before the last day of the month
    5-3 following each calendar quarter, remit to the comptroller the
    5-4 amount of the fines collected under Section 758.006 in the
    5-5 preceding quarter. The custodian of the county treasury may retain
    5-6 half of the fines collected under Section 758.006 and the interest
    5-7 on the retained fines as a service fee if the custodian of the
    5-8 treasury keeps records of the amount of fines on deposit collected
    5-9 under Section 758.006 and remits the appropriate amount to the
   5-10 comptroller within the period prescribed by this section. The
   5-11 comptroller shall deposit the amounts remitted under this section
   5-12 in the bicycle safety fund established under Section 758.003.
   5-13 Sec. 758.008. LOCAL REGULATION. This section does not
   5-14 preempt a local regulation of the use of bicycle helmets or affect
   5-15 the authority of a political subdivision to adopt or enforce an
   5-16 ordinance or requirement relating to the use of bicycle helmets if
   5-17 the regulation, ordinance, or requirement is compatible with and
   5-18 equal to or more stringent than this chapter.
   5-19 Sec. 758.009. DISMISSAL OF MISDEMEANOR CHARGE ON COMPLETION
   5-20 OF TEEN COURT PROGRAM. A juvenile court may defer adjudication
   5-21 proceedings under this chapter if the child completes the
   5-22 requirements of Article 45.55, Code of Criminal Procedure.
   5-23 SECTION 5. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b) of this
   5-24 section, this Act takes effect September 1, 1999.
   5-25 (b) Sections 758.006 and 758.007, Health and Safety Code, as
   5-26 added by this Act, take effect January 1, 2000.
   5-27 SECTION 6. The importance of this legislation and the
    6-1 crowded condition of the calendars in both houses create an
    6-2 emergency and an imperative public necessity that the
    6-3 constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on three several
    6-4 days in each house be suspended, and this rule is hereby suspended.





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