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ASK A COP: Driverless cars legal here

Karen from Port Arthur asks: Officer Antoine, love your column.

I was wondering the other day about the Google driverless cars on the road. Now if you need a driver’s license to legally operate a vehicle on the roads of Texas shouldn’t that mean that a driver needs to be in the car behind the steering wheel in Texas? Is it legal to be on the road in Texas with a driverless vehicle; is it safe? About a year or so ago I saw a Google vehicle on Memorial Boulevard but I didn’t turn around to see if it had a driver. Officer Antoine, are these types of self-driven vehicles legal in Texas?

Answer: Very good question, Karen! Get ready for change because Autonomous (driverless) vehicles are legal in Texas and the demand will only increase for this new technology. This new driving system is far more advanced than many Texas motorists are ready for, don’t feel like you’re on an island alone. Karen, Texas law sets the owner of the automated car as the vehicle’s legal operator and allows the driving system to be the entity licensed to operate the vehicle. Karen, Texas Senate Bill 2205 requires driverless vehicles used on highways be capable of complying with all traffic laws, be equipped with video-recording devices and be insured, just like other cars. It also makes the manufacturer responsible for any broken traffic laws or car wrecks, as long as the automated driving system hasn’t been modified by anyone else.

Here’s the catch, data seems to suggest that autonomous cars may be safer than cars driven by humans. Most car crashes are caused by human error. Self-driving cars follow set rules, while human drivers can be unpredictable. This can make self-driving cars safer or more dangerous, depending on the situation.

Google claims that more than 90% of these fatalities were due to human error. Google announced that its driverless cars had covered over 700,000 miles (1.12 million kilometers) without a recorded accident caused by one of its vehicles — one of Google’s driverless vehicle was hit from behind, but the other driver was at fault. So Karen, in Texas you don’t have to have an driver behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and still comply with state of Texas law. By the way Karen, I’ve seen that vehicle as well!

Dianna from Groves asks: Officer Antoine, what an impact you’ve made and an asset you’ve been to our area! Personally, I’m a much more conscientious driver. Yes, I’ve learned from you on three different occasions.

First, you gave me a ticket, then I started reading your Ask a Cop articles and lastly my company invited you to our annual safety luncheon, where you were the guest speaker. May I add, you gave a very impactful and timely message that people are still talking about today!

My question is about passengers who put their feet on dashboard while on the highway. While traveling during our summer trip, I’ve noticed scores of passengers either sitting up or reclined and their feet are on the dashboard while the car was traveling on highway. I understand there are those seeking comfort while traveling, but I just don’t get it. Is it legal to travel with feet on dashboard in Texas?

Answer: Good question, Dianna! I’d be amiss if I fail to thank you for the kind words of support. All my efforts while employed with the Port Arthur Police Department have been to help someone else. I’m grateful you have a different change of behavior behind the wheel, and I give God all the glory for any part I may have contributed to that.

I’ve discovered driving is an act where we must have continued education. The “Drive Safe” course presented to your company has reached over 25, 000 motorists, and I’m thankful that our current Chief of Police Tim Duriso share that same passion and vision of his Police Department being committed and active to community outreach.

Dianna, I’ve seen passengers with their feet on the dashboard as well; it’s not a safe practice that I’d even dare attempt or allow in my vehicle. But having your feet on the dashboard while on the roadway in Texas is not illegal. I encourage all passengers to travel as safely as possible at all times. I’ve often asked myself what would happen if I were involved in a crash and my feet were on the dashboard. The end result wouldn’t be pretty!

Tina from Groves asks: Officer Antoine, thanks for all you do to inform the community about driving laws. My husband is not totally reformed on his bad driving habits, and I’m not the least bit excited when he drives, especially on the highway. I will say thanks to God and the Ask a Cop column.

He’s more conscientious about laws than he’s ever been, because there was a time when I wouldn’t ride with him. Officer Antoine, my husband is a habitual tailgater. If he wants to pass another vehicle on the highway, he gets too close to them to intimidate the other driver to move over. Did I mention he drives a big truck?

Officer Antoine, this has me pulling my hair out. How close can you be to a vehicle before you violate the driving-too-close law? I will say he respects your column so can you please help!

Answer: Good question, Tina! I personally don’t know a perfect driver (myself included), but I’m grateful for motorists like yourself and thousands of others, who have taken an interest in this column to increase our knowledge of the Texas Transportation Code. In my opinion, once our knowledge about the laws on the road is better, we drive better, which will in turn make our roads safer! Now Tina, tell your husband tailgating is only OK as long as he’s in the parking lot of a football game, either high school, collegiate or professional sports team like the champions, The Pittsburgh Steelers (smile)!

Tina, you are correct, your husband’s driving behavior on the highways where the speed limits are higher, are very dangerous and should be stopped immediately. There’s no set footage or distance given by the state for traveling on the roads of Texas, only that it’s done at a safe distance.

Tina, I hope this gets your husband’s attention, that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions account for about 23 percent of all motor-vehicle crashes, resulting in about 2,000 deaths and 950,000 injuries.

Join Officer Antoine for Ask A Cop Live on KSAP 96.9 FM, “The Breeze” radio station every Tuesday from 1-2 p.m. Tune in and listen as Officer Antoine discusses in detail the newly released Ask A Cop article that printed in The News. You can also tune in via internet at www.ksapthebreeze.org. Feel free to call in and ask your question live to Officer Antoine at 409-982-0247.

Remember to email your questions to Rickey.Antoine@portarthurtx.gov, or call 409-983-8673 and leave a message or voice mail question, or mail them to: Ofc. Rickey Antoine, 645 Fourth St., Port Arthur, Texas, 77640. If you happen to see me in public you can Ask A Cop!