A new Texas law took effect on Wednesday that allows inattentive drivers to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if they cause bodily harm to a pedestrian.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, if the pedestrian is seriously injured, drivers may be found guilty of a state jail felony.
The new law, the Lisa Torry Smith Act, was inspired by a tragedy. The law is 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.
TxDOT said the new law aims to protect pedestrians, cyclists, people operating motor-assisted scooters, neighborhood electric vehicles, or golf carts.
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The driver in Lisa Torry Smith's crash was able to walk away from the incident without facing any criminal charges, but under the new law that took effect on Wednesday, Texas drivers can now be criminally responsible if they collide with a pedestrian in a crosswalk, TxDOT said.
The new law also requires drivers to stop and yield to pedestrians or cyclists who are properly in an intersection.
TxDOT said 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 percent, TxDOT said.