New Texas law has tougher penalties for drivers who hit pedestrians

A new Texas law creates criminal penalties for negligent drivers who hit pedestrians.

If a driver hits and injures someone in a crosswalk it's a Class A misdemeanor, whether they're walking or on a bike, golf cart or skateboard. Serious injuries or death can lead to two years in jail.

Senate Bill 1055, the Lisa Torry Smith Act, is named after a Houston-area woman who was struck and killed in a crosswalk nearly four years ago while walking her then six-year-old son to school.

"My son Logan laying in the middle of the street screaming out where’s mommy," said husband Elliot Smith. "This driver was inattentive, rushing and unconcerned with pedestrians in the crosswalk."

without being under the influence, the driver received a $54 fine for failing to yield. at the time there was no Texas law to allow criminal charges. 

"We were shocked. We were shocked that you could kill someone in cold blood and not face any consequences," said sister Gina Torry.

The new Texas law changes that. The Texas Department of Transportation noted a nine-percent increase in pedestrian death crashes from 2019 to 2020. Their Be Safe, Drive Smart campaign will inform people of the new law and remind drivers to yield to pedestrians and cyclists. 

"We all have a part to play by following the rules of the road," said Patrick Clarke, TxDOT spokesperson.

Pedestrians in Uptown Dallas, a walkable Dallas neighborhood, said crossing the street can be dangerous. But they had mixed feelings about the new law.

"You got some people, they’ll be doing their nails, their eyelashes and makeup and I'm like come on man," said Larry Stamps.

"If you kill someone that's a big offense but at the same time it could be something simple like something fell on you lap and you're trying to wipe it off," said Destiny Hunter.

"Most modern cars have screens in them so you're going to be distracted either way. I don't know if it’s the best thing to be charging people," said Colin Cornwell.

According to TxDOT, 700 pedestrians were killed statewide in 2020 along with 82 bicyclists.

RELATED: 666 new Texas laws go into effect Sept. 1. Here are some that might affect you