Missouri City woman’s death sparks new crosswalk law, and other transportation updates

(Steven Ryzewski/Community Impact Newspaper)
(Steven Ryzewski/Community Impact Newspaper)

(Steven Ryzewski/Community Impact Newspaper)

Inattentive Texas drivers can now be criminally charged if they injure or kill a pedestrian in a crosswalk, according to Senate Bill 1055, one of the more than 600 new Texas laws that went into effect Sept. 1.

Also called the Lisa Torry Smith Act, the new law was inspired by the 2017 death of a Missouri City woman who died after being hit in a crosswalk while taking her son to school, according to a Texas Department of Transportation press release. The driver who hit Torry Smith and injured her son was fined $50 but did not face criminal charges.

“For us, [this law] is the best thing that could have come out of a tragedy,” Torry Smith’s husband, Elliot Smith, said in audio provided by TxDOT. “There’s accountability now. [Before this law], the accountability was on the pedestrian to essentially make sure you don’t get hit by a car. ... This law puts the impetus on drivers now to pay attention, to slow down and look for people in crosswalks.”

After her death, a grand jury did not prosecute the defendant in Torry Smith’s case, prompting Brian Middleton, Fort Bend County district attorney, to draft the legislation.

Middleton said the law aims to clarify the definition of criminal negligence as it pertains to collisions in a crosswalk. Under the new law, if a driver causes bodily injury to a pedestrian, they can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If the collision causes severe injury or death, the driver can be charged with a state jail felony, Middleton said.

Middleton said the law updated the Texas Transportation Code to require drivers to stop and yield to pedestrians legally using a crosswalk.

Pedestrian deaths account for 1 in 5 of all traffic fatalities, and the number of pedestrian fatalities from vehicular crashes rose 5% from 2016-20, according to TxDOT.

“We’re hoping these efforts raise people’s awareness that when they are approaching a crosswalk area, they need to slow down; be observant; and check the area for pedestrians, cyclists and people with motorized mobility devices,” Middleton said.

Upcoming projects

League City Parkway right-turn lane

An extended eastbound right turn lane for League City Parkway is under design. The turn lane will begin about 450 feet west of Butler Road and run to about 300 feet west of the I-45 southbound frontage road, where the lane will tie into the existing right-turn lane built by the Texas Department of Transportation. About 2/5 of a mile of 12-foot-wide concrete pavement will be implemented into the project to improve mobility.Timeline: summer 2022-TBD

Cost: $1.86 million

Funding sources: city of League City, Galveston County
By Claire Shoop

Reporter, Sugar Land/Missouri City

Claire joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2019 as the reporter for the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2019 where she studied journalism, government and Arabic. While in school, Claire was a fellow for The Texas Tribune, worked for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. She enjoys playing cards with her family and listening to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

By Jake Magee

Editor, Bay Area & Pearland/Friendswood

Jake has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper. Today, he covers everything from aerospace to transportation to flood mitigation.



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