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REWIND: Looking back at laws we know and a few we didn’t

Economics often are a motivation for changes in the law as it was in 1973 when Texas was one of a handful of states to legalize the now token “right turn on red.”

DALLAS — Every two years, the Texas legislature meets in Austin to discuss, debate and decide which proposed bills will become new state laws. This year had its share of controversial topics like permitless carry and the heartbeat abortion bill.

It is a civic process going back 170 years that has set the norms for our everyday life as once unheard of ideas are signed into law and go on the books.

A 1972 WFAA story preserved in the SMU Jones Film Library examined the one-year anniversary of liquor-by-the-drink in Texas, a right you may take for granted every happy hour but was once a much-debated controversy. Critics worried about an increase in automobile fatalities while supporters promoted the economical benefits of legalizing mixed drinks.

Economics often are a motivation for changes in the law as it was in 1973 when Texas was one of a handful of states to legalize the now token “right turn on red” for drivers. 

By allowing drivers to make the previously banned maneuver, lawmakers hoped it would lead to less time idling at an intersection and help conserve gasoline amid the fuel crisis of the 1970s. The reporter delivering the story said a master’s thesis found turning right at a red light could cut the amount of time drivers spent in traffic by 21%.

But some of the strangest laws are local ordinances and the City of Dallas had its share of odd laws.

A 1976 story talked about the arrest of a 7-11 manager after two 16-year-olds were spotted playing one of the pinball machines inside the store. Yes, pinball came with an age requirement of 17 in Dallas during that time even though other video arcade games sitting right next to the pinball machines were perfectly legal.

Other weird ordinances in Dallas stated you could not ride a bike with no hands, you could not herd cattle in the city or feed pigeons downtown. “Indecent and immodest” dancing was banned in the city limits and all dancing was banned for minors after 9 p.m. And swimming nude in the Trinity River or any other body of water was prohibited during the day yet not at night.

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