| Texas Traffic Laws (and
good driving habits)
|This page last updated July 13, 2016
all seen it and, if we're honest with ourselves, we've probably all
done it, too. The "it" I'm referring to is bad
driving. Unfortunately, more and more, I think the offender
knows what they're doing is wrong and just thinks the rules don't apply
to them. However, in many cases, the bad driver may not even
be aware that they're doing anything wrong through either
ignorance of the law or just not paying attention and would likely
alter their behavior if they knew the problems they were
causing. That is the intention of this page.
more than three decades of driving and observing the streets and
of Texas on a
regular basis, I have compiled a list of what seem to me to be the
most violated traffic laws. Additionally, I've
also included several good
driving habits that I've learned over the years driving and observing
all over the US and Europe. Hopefully,
enough people will read this and modify their driving
accordingly resulting in a safer and more pleasant driving experience
for all of us.
applicable, I've quoted the Texas Transportation Code. Those
references are in a gray box and start with the section number (e.g.
you see the term
"operator" in the law, it is referring to you, the operator of a
vehicle. After each citation, I've included my own comments
to help better explain or clarify the law.
you want to look up the the laws yourself, you can do so at
Almost everything pertaining to traffic laws is in Sections 544 and
545. The Texas Department of Public Safety's Driver's Manual
is also online at
The Texas Manual of Uniform Traffic Devices, which is the official
"law" regarding the meaning of traffic signs, signals, and markings, is
thing you should remember-- aggressive, arrogant, dangerous, or just
plain bad driving can get you killed. Besides the obvious
risk from getting killed in a wreck that such driving often causes,
your actions may cause other drivers to become angry or even enraged,
the phenomena known as "road rage." Someday you may cut
someone off or zip by somebody on the shoulder and that person may go
berserk, follow and and kill you. So be cool and "drive
friendly"-- it could
very well save your life.
Many of you find this site after getting a ticket or being involved in
an accident. Oftentimes, you've been cited with something you
hadn't heard of before or you dispute the allegation. You may
or may not find the answer here. If not, I encourage you to
continue your search. In the end, you may find that the
citation is valid. If that's the case, then pay your fine or
take defensive driving and
consider it a learning experience. However, I have gotten
letters from many folks that clearly indicate to me that sometimes even
the police don't always know the law, so it's perfectly reasonable to
double-check. Also, it's not unheard of that traffic
enforcement (especially speed enforcement) in many places is
done for revenue enhancement, and officers may get overzealous
sloppy in their duties as a result.
all in this together, so your
comments and suggestions are welcome. You can reach me using
the "contact" link at the
top of the page.
The information on this page is provided
for informational purposes only. The author, his agents,
and/or sponsors (herein collectively referred to as "the author") do
not offer, nor do they imply that they intend to offer, legal advice or
counseling to any individual or organization by providing this
information. You should not rely or act upon any information
contained herein for any purpose without seeking legal advice from a
duly licensed attorney competent to practice law in your jurisdiction.
information provided on this website is provided on an "as-is" basis
without warranties of any kind either express or implied. The
author makes no warranties or representations of any kind concerning
any information contained in this website. This website is
provided only as general information. The author expressly
disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken
based upon the information contained herein or with respect to any
errors or omissions in such information.
to official sources of information elsewhere on the Internet are
provided for reference, but the author makes no representations or
warranty of any kind as to the accuracy or any other aspect of the
information contained on such Internet sites and specifically disclaims
any and all liability for any claims or damages that may result from
information on those Internet sites.
If you need legal advice, get a lawyer as I am not a lawyer nor do I
play one on TV. I try to keep my site up-to-date but I can't
guarantee that something hasn't changed since the last time I
checked. I don't rule the world, so I can't control or vouch
for the accuracy of what's on other websites that I may suggest to you
here. Be sure to eat at least five servings of vegetables and
drink eight glasses of water every day. Do unto others as you
would have them do unto you. Drive safely. Live
long and prosper.
THINGS I'M NOT
In addition to not being a lawyer, I'm also not (nor ever have been) a
professional traffic engineer or law enforcement officer.
Therefore, the explanations below are strictly those of a layman.
That said, I've had an inexplicable interest in roads and
traffic since I was a youngster and have studied the transportation
code at length, and
my site has been reviewed by numerous law enforcement officers and
traffic engineers over the years, so I am confident in the accuracy of
my interpretations and discussions below. If you do find
something you believe is incorrect, I welcome your feedback-- use the
Contact link at the top of this page to reach me.
is a list of topics on this site:
The officially-sanctioned meaning for lane markings is not in the
Transportation Code. Instead, §544.001 requires the state to
maintain an official manual of signs, signals, and markings.
This manual, the Texas Uniform Manual of Traffic Control Devices
(MUTCD), is the "law" when it comes to all traffic control devices,
including lane markings. The meanings of these devices, as
defined in the MUTCD, is enforceable.
Some lane markings seem to confound
drivers. For example, many drivers don't realize the
difference between white
yellow lines. So, without
further ado, here are the definitions of lane markings in Texas:
||YELLOW LINES: Traffic going opposite
directions is separated by yellow lines. If you're to the
left of a yellow line, and you're not intentionally passing somebody,
you'd better get over to the right FAST before you see the head
ornament of a Mack truck directly in front of you. I see this
confusion happen a lot when city folks get off on a rural, two-way
frontage road. There are various types of yellow lines; see
below for the specifics of each.
||SOLID DOUBLE YELLOW LINES: Double
yellow lines indicate that passing is not permitted (in other words, a
"no passing zone".) Even if you think you can see far enough
ahead, there may be some other hazard or reason that you can't see
that makes it unsafe for you to pass. However, it is legal to
turn left across a double yellow line (with one exception; see sidebar
||SINGLE SOLID YELLOW LINE: This
is used to mark the left edge of the roadway on a divided
highway. The use of this marking to mark the center of a
two-way road is non-standard and has no official meaning.
||SOLID YELLOW LINE ON YOUR SIDE, BROKEN
YELLOW LINE ON THE OTHER: You may not pass when there is a
solid yellow line on your side. Traffic on the side of the
road with the broken (dashed) line is allowed to pass. Two
sets of these, with the broken lines facing each other, are used to
demarcate two-way center left turn lanes.
||BROKEN YELLOW LINE: A single
broken (dashed) yellow line means that passing is permitted in both
||BROKEN DOUBLE YELLOW LINES: This
marking is fairly rare and is used to separate reversible lanes (i.e.
lanes that can change direction.) Pay
attention to and obey the lane control signs or signals.
||WHITE LINES: These separate
traffic going the same direction. There
are several varieties of white lines; see below for the meanings of
||DOUBLE WHITE LINES: Parallel
white lines indicate that changing lanes or turning across the lines is
prohibited. Doing so may be dangerous or interrupt the smooth
flow of traffic. In Texas, you'll often see these where an
exit ramp merges into its own lane on the frontage road.
||SINGLE SOLID WHITE LINE: This is
used to channelize traffic and indicates that changing lanes is
discouraged, although not specifically prohibited. You can
cross it if you have to, but you should avoid it if possible.
Even a thick single white line can be crossed if necessary; however,
they are really discouraging you from crossing, so
you should think twice about it. A single white line is also
used to mark the right edge of the roadway or separate the
right shoulder from the through lane.
||BROKEN WHITE LINE: A broken
(dashed) white line separates lanes of traffic traveling in the same
||SHORT BROKEN WHITE LINE: A short
(dashed) white line marks a lane that will soon become an exit or turn
TURNING LEFT OVER DOUBLE-YELLOW LINES
One of the biggest misconceptions in the arena of lane
markings is the meaning of
the double-yellow line with regards to left turns. A
double-yellow line simply means "no passing"; it does not prohibit left
turns. In fact, you are specifically permitted by statute to
turn left over double yellow lines:
| §545.055. PASSING TO THE LEFT:
An operator may not drive on the left side of the roadway in a
no-passing zone or on the left side of any pavement striping designed
to mark a no-passing zone. This
subsection does not prohibit a driver from crossing pavement striping,
or the center line in a no-passing zone marked by signs only, to make a
left turn into or out of an alley or private road or driveway.
is an exception to the above rule: if
there are two
sets of double-yellow lines, you may not cross over at all,
including for left turns. These areas are defined as "flush
islands" in the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control
Devices. As such, they have the same purpose and function
as a physical traffic island and are legally enforceable as a "dividing
space" for the purposes of §545.063(b) (see below.)
These areas often also have diagonal hash
markings to help emphasize that they're off-limits.
Yellow traffic signal
| §544.007. TRAFFIC-CONTROL SIGNALS IN
- (e) An operator of a vehicle facing a steady yellow
signal is warned by that signal that:
- (1) movement authorized by a green signal is being
- (2) a red signal is to be given.
Lots of folks
have questions as to just what a yellow
light really means. By law, a yellow light is simply a
warning that the light is about to change to red.
Technically, since no conflicting traffic can have a green
you have a
yellow, other traffic must still yield to you. As such, you
allowed to cross the stop line or crosswalk when the light is yellow,
and as long as you have done so before the light turns red, you have
not violated the law. Does this mean you should race to beat
the red-- no, of course not. If the light is yellow and you
have not passed the "point of no return" and can safely stop, you
should do so. Note, however, that I said "safely"
stop. If the road is wet and you don't reasonably think you
could stop without sliding into the intersection or perhaps having
someone slide into you, then keep going-- your duty to prevent an
accident is foremost.
Flashing yellow signals
| §544.008. FLASHING SIGNALS
- (a) The operator of a vehicle facing a flashing red
signal shall stop at a clearly marked stop line. In the
absence of a stop line, the operator shall stop before entering the
crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. In the
absence of a crosswalk, the operator shall stop at the place nearest
the intersecting roadway where the operator has a view of approaching
traffic on the intersecting roadway. The right to proceed is
subject to the rules applicable after stopping at a stop sign.
(b) The operator of a vehicle facing a flashing yellow signal may
proceed through an intersection or past the signal only with caution.
(c) This section does not apply at a railroad crossing.
I added this
section because a lot of motorists
seem to be confused about the meaning of a flashing yellow signal,
particularly when a regular traffic signal (red-yellow-green) is
flashing yellow. (I'm specifically talking about a full
circular flashing yellow like the one shown below, not the new flashing
yellow arrows.) A flashing yellow signal simply means
"proceed with caution", even when it's being displayed by a regular
traffic signal. Inexplicably,
I am seeing more and more people actually stop when they come upon a
one of these. This is unnecessary and a bit
dangerous because the person behind you is probably not expecting you
to stop. It would be the same as stopping at a green
light. You only need to stop if it is a flashing red
signal; in those cases, treat the signal like you would a stop
Otherwise, just proceed through with a bit of extra caution.
signals will default to a flash
mode as a fail-safe measure if there has been a malfunction or power
outage and the signal did not properly reset. Some signals
go into flash mode during overnight hours, and new signals are
run in flash mode for a few days before being activated.
not mean stop!
Traffic signals out
| §544.007. TRAFFIC-CONTROL SIGNALS IN
- (i) An operator of a vehicle
traffic-control signal, other than a freeway entrance ramp control
signal or a pedestrian hybrid beacon, that does not display an
indication in any of
the signal heads shall stop ... as if the intersection had a stop sign.
If a traffic
signal is out of
order (that is, all of the lights are dark), then the intersection
reverts to a four-way stop. Some drivers will assume that if
light is off, they can just keep going, but if someone on the
intersecting street thinks the same thing at the same time, you
hopefully can see what might happen. Common sense
also dictates that if the signals are otherwise obviously
malfunctioning (e.g. two colors on at the same time), treat the
intersection as a four-way stop as well. Note the
exceptions for signals on freeway entrance ramps (metering or
"flow" signals) as well the new pedestrian crossing signals that are
dark until activated.
Turning on red
| §544.007 - TRAFFIC-CONTROL SIGNALS IN GENERAL
- (d) An operator of a vehicle facing only a steady
red signal shall stop at a clearly marked stop line. In the
absence of a stop line, the operator shall stop before entering the
crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. A vehicle
that is not turning shall remain standing until an indication to
proceed is shown. After stopping, standing until the
intersection may be entered safely, and yielding right-of-way to
pedestrians lawfully in an adjacent crosswalk and other traffic
lawfully using the intersection, the operator may:
- (1) turn right; or
- (2) turn left, if the intersecting streets are both
one-way streets and a left turn is permissible.
Here are two common questions related to legal
turns on red.
LEFT ON RED
I drive downtown, I often end-up stuck
behind someone on a
one-way street stopped at a red light waiting to turn left onto another
one-way street. If only they knew...
A left turn on red is allowed when the street you
are is one-way and the street you are turning onto is also one-way (to
the left, of course). Makes sense if you think about it--
it's just a mirror image of a right-on-red.
There are some people who believe that you
can make a left turn at a red light at any intersection (i.e. two-way
to two-way, two-way to one-way, or one-way to two-way). While
there are some states that allow some version of this, Texas does
not. Unless both streets are one-way, you
can not make a left on red. Also, there are some who believe
that you can make a left on red if there are no signs such as "LEFT
TURN SIGNAL" or "LEFT ON GREEN ARROW". Again, not in
Texas. Those signs are purely informational and as long as a
signal is obviously intended to regulate traffic turning left (which a
red signal to the left of green signals for through traffic
be), then drivers are required to obey it regardless of the absence or
presence of signs. Turning left on a red light, unless both
streets are one-way, is running a red light and you can be ticketed for
RIGHT ON RED FROM DOUBLE TURN LANES
related matter, I often get the question of whether it is legal to make
a right on red from the left lane of dual right turn lanes (i.e. the
"outer" right turn lane). The answer is yes, so long as there
aren't any signs prohibiting it such as those shown
| §545.302 - STOPPING, STANDING, OR PARKING
PROHIBITED IN CERTAIN PLACES
- (a) An operator may not stop, stand, or park a
(3) in an intersection;
- (f) Subsections (a), (b), and (c) do not apply if
the avoidance of conflict with other traffic is necessary or if the
operator is complying with the law or the directions of a police
officer or official traffic-control device.
The issue of waiting in an intersection is a
little tricky. The law specifically prohibits stopping in an
intersection. However, subsection (f) of the same law makes
an exception "if the avoidance of conflict with other traffic is
necessary." Therefore, the following sections cover the two
conflicting issues regarding when to wait in an intersection.
Paradoxically, many people do exactly the opposite of these.
WAITING TO TURN LEFT
Sometimes, you come to an intersection where you want
to turn left and there's a flashing yellow arrow or a green through
no green arrow.
Instead of waiting behind the line, you should move about 1/4th to
1/3rd of the way
into the intersection and wait there. Then, if the light
turns red before you can turn, the oncoming traffic will stop and you
can complete your turn. (Make sure, of course, that that the
oncoming traffic is stopping before you actually turn-- sometimes
they'll still have a green even when your direction has a
red. As a footnote, the flashing yellow arrow signal was
developed to prevent that from happening.) But isn't doing so
considered running a red light? No, because you lawfully
the intersection on
a green and other traffic must by law allow you to clear the
intersection before they can go (§544.007 (b)). At
intersections without protected left arrows on busy streets, you often
have to do this if you ever want to turn. How is this legal,
though, when §545.302(a)(3) specifically prohibits stopping in an
intersection? In this case, the exception provided by
subsection (f) allows this action: you're stopping to avoid conflicting
with oncoming traffic.
there is a sign at the intersection that reads "ONCOMING TRAFFIC HAS
EXTENDED GREEN", this means that the signal for your direction will
turn red before the oncoming traffic gets a red. In this
is safer for you to wait behind the stop line to turn left.
The flashing yellow arrow signal now being widely deployed
was developed specifically to
eliminate this hazardous situation.
Never back out of an intersection
If you are waiting in an intersection when
the light turns red, you should never back out of the
intersection. Just wait for oncoming traffic to clear and
complete your turn. Don't worry if this means you have to
the intersection for a few seconds after the light has turned red--
just stay calm and wait until it's safe to turn.
DON'T BLOCK INTERSECTIONS
street you are on is bumper-to-bumper and you come to an intersection
with a green light, remember: "Don't Block The Box!" You
should not enter an intersection if congestion would prevent you from
immediately vacating the intersection when the signal turns
red. In other words, don't drive into an intersection unless
you know you can get out quickly if the light turns red. So
why doesn't the exception provided by subtitle (f) apply? In
this case, you're not stopping to avoid conflicting with other traffic,
you're stopping due to congestion, which is different. It's
basically a matter of common sense and good faith in keeping with the
spirit of the law. With the left-turn rule above, assuming
there is nothing obstructing the street you want to turn onto, you will
be able to vacate the intersection before or immediately after your
light turns red and therefore won't be blocking the intersection for
cross-traffic. With congestion, your egress is blocked by
stopped traffic which will prevent you from being able to exit the
intersection immediately when the light turns red and thus will leave
you blocking the intersection for cross-traffic.
By the way, this rule can also cancel the waiting-to-turn-left rule
above: if you have a green light, or even a green arrow, but the street
you want to turn onto is backed-up to the intersection, wait behind the
stop line or crosswalk until there's room for you, then turn.
New York City had such a problem with blocked intersections that they
started a public education program called "Don't Block The
Box!", and Austin has adopted it recently as well.
Obstructing intersections in this manner causes traffic
on the intersecting street to also become congested. This
leads to the phenomenon known as "gridlock" where several blocks of
traffic in all directions are "locked" because of obstructed
Yield on green
Even if you have a green light, the law requires you to yield to
traffic already in the intersection. So if someone on the
cross street was hanging-out in the intersection waiting to turn left
when your signal turns green, don't roar into the intersection and
pound your horn-- they're legally there and have the right to make
their turn unmolested and you're just being a putz by not giving them a
few seconds to move on.
Changing lanes in an
not sure where this rumor started, but I have gotten several inquiries
about the legality of changing lanes in an intersection. In
Texas, and in every other state that I could find, it is perfectly
legal to change lanes in an intersection, so long as it can be done
safely (which is always the requirement when changing lanes.)
If this were
the law, it would be very difficult to ever change lanes along most
major streets since there is an intersection every few hundred
Hopefully this will squelch this urban legend once and for all.
Several people have written me saying that §545.302 does in fact
prohibit changing lanes in an intersection. However, they are
incorrectly interpreting the statute. Here is the text of
§ 545.056 - DRIVING TO LEFT OF CENTER OF ROADWAY:
LIMITATIONS OTHER THAN PASSING
An operator may not drive to the left side of the roadway if the
- (1) approaching within 100 feet of an intersection
or railroad grade crossing in a municipality;
- (2) approaching within 100 feet of an intersection
or railroad grade crossing outside a municipality and the intersection
or crossing is shown by a sign or marking in accordance with Section
- (3) approaching within 100 feet of a bridge,
viaduct, or tunnel; or
- (4) awaiting access to a ferry operated by the
Texas Transportation Commission.
Notice that the statute specifically says "an
operator may not drive to the left side of the roadway".
This is different than the changing lanes discussed above.
"Changing lanes" is when there are two or more lanes for the direction
you are traveling and you wish to change between those lanes.
"Driving to the left side of the roadway" is just that-- going across
the yellow line down the middle of the roadway and crossing into
oncoming traffic. As you can see by the statute, doing this
is illegal within 100 feet of the approach of an
intersection. My guess is many people misconstrue or
misremember this rule to mean that you can't change lanes at an
intersection. However, the two are completely separate
things; there is no restriction on changing lanes.
That said, you should avoid changing lanes while approaching an
intersection, especially if you see someone waiting at the
intersection. That person may decide to make a turn onto your roadway
based on which lane you're in. For instance, if you're in the left
lane, someone may use that as an opportunity to turn into the right
lane. If you suddenly change into that lane after they've committed
themselves to making that turn, then you're creating a dangerous
situation for both yourself and the other driver and may very well
end-up in a crash because of it.
Look before crossing
Even if you have a green light, you should always look both ways before
you cross any intersection. Who knows... there could be
somebody running the red or maybe an emergency vehicle
approaching. So always look both ways before you cross any
Stopping for school buses
| §545.066 - PASSING A SCHOOL BUS; OFFENSE
- (a) An operator on a highway, when approaching from
either direction a school bus stopped on the highway to receive or
discharge a student:
- (1) shall stop before reaching the school bus when
the bus is operating a visual signal as required by Section 547.701; and
- (2) may not proceed until:
- (A) the school bus resumes motion;
- (B) the operator is signaled by the bus driver to
- (C) the visual signal is no longer actuated.
- (b) An operator on a highway having separate
roadways is not required to stop:
- (1) for a school bus that is on a different
- (2) if on a controlled-access highway, for a school
bus that is stopped:
- (A) in a loading zone that is a part of or adjacent
to the highway; and
- (B) where pedestrians are not permitted to cross
- (f) For the purposes of this section:
- (1) a highway is considered to have separate
roadways only if the highway has roadways separated by an intervening
space on which operation of vehicles is not permitted, a physical
barrier, or a clearly indicated dividing section constructed to impede
vehicular traffic; and
- (2) a highway is not considered to have separate
roadways if the highway has roadways separated only by a left turn lane.
reported by numerous school districts and police agencies that many
drivers either have no clue about the requirement to stop for
buses or simply are not paying attention. If you are
a school bus that has stopped and its red lights are flashing, you must
stop. Most school buses also
have a stop sign on the side near the driver that also swings out to
you of your duty to stop. Traffic heading in both
directions is required to stop and the
requirement to stop applies in both urban as well as rural areas.
The only exception is if there is a median, island,
or divider between you and the school bus; in those cases, you can
proceed, but I recommend that you do so cautiously in case any
kiddos are crossing carelessly. Note
that the law specifically indicates that a left turn lane does not
count as a divider. This means that even on a seven
lane street (three lanes in each direction plus a center turn lane), traffic in all seven lanes must
stop for a school bus. Also, if
you are not on the same street as the bus but on an intersecting
street, you may also proceed (with caution, of course.) And
there is an exception when a bus is stopped in a loading zone on a
controlled-access highway, but I have never actually seen one of
Once you have stopped, you are required to remain stopped until the
lights stop flashing, the bus has started moving again, or the driver
waves you to move on.
Note that in Texas traffic code, the term "highway"
is defined to mean any public roadway, including
city streets (§541.302).
School buses with hazard flashers on
School buses are required by law to stop at
all railroad crossings. When they do this, they usually
switch on their hazard flashers to warn traffic behind them of the
impending stop. You are not required to stop for the bus in
this case (unless you are directly behind them of course.)
You are only legally bound to stop when the alternating
red lights at the top of the bus are
flashing. It should also be noted that occasionally when
discharging or boarding passengers, the driver may determine that there
is not a need to stop traffic and will only activate the bus's hazard
flashers. Again, in this case, you are not required to
Yellow flashing lights
many school buses also have yellow alternating
flashing lights just to the inside of the red ones; these are used to
warn drivers that the
bus is about to stop. You are not required to stop when the
yellow flashers are on, but you should be prepared to stop.
Essentially, they have the same meaning as the yellow traffic signal--
a warning that the the red lights will come on shortly.
Yielding to and passing
| §545.156 - VEHICLE APPROACHED BY AUTHORIZED
- (a) On the immediate approach of an authorized
emergency vehicle using audible and visual signals..., or of a police
vehicle lawfully using only an audible signal, an operator, unless
otherwise directed by a police officer, shall:
- (1) yield the right-of-way;
- (2) immediately drive to a position parallel to and
as close as possible to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway
clear of any intersection; and
- (3) stop and remain standing until the authorized
emergency vehicle has passed.
- (b) This section does not exempt the operator of an
authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for
the safety of all persons using the highway.
§545.157 - PASSING AUTHORIZED EMERGENCY VEHICLE
This section applies only to the following vehicles:
(1) a stationary authorized
emergency vehicle using visual signals that meet the requirements of
Sections 547.305 and 547.702;
On approaching a vehicle described by Subsection (a), an operator,
unless otherwise directed by a police officer, shall:
a stationary tow truck using equipment authorized by Section
a Texas Department of Transportation vehicle not separated from the
roadway by a traffic control channelizing device and using visual
signals that comply with the standards and specifications adopted under
- (1) vacate the lane closest to the emergency
vehicle when driving on a highway with two or more lanes traveling in
the direction of the emergency vehicle; or
(2) slow to a speed not to exceed:
20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit when the posted
speed limit is 25 miles per hour or more; or
five miles per hour when the posted speed limit is less than 25 miles
A violation of this section is:
a misdemeanor punishable under Section 542.401;
a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500 if the violation results in
property damage; or
a Class B misdemeanor if the violation results in bodily injury.
If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes
an offense under another section of this code or the Penal Code, the
actor may be prosecuted under either section or under both sections.
The purpose of the first law obviously is to give
emergency vehicles a clear path, and the reason they need that
right-of-way is also obvious. Think of it like this: if you
or a loved-one needed help and called 911, wouldn't you want everyone
to make way for those emergency vehicles?
As the law says,
you are required to pull-over to
the right-hand side of the road and stop. This law applies no
matter which direction you are traveling relative to the emergency
vehicle. Also, needless to say, give emergency vehicles the
right-of-way at all intersections, even if they would normally have to
yield to you (see "Look Before Crossing Intersections" below.)
The second law requires drivers who are approaching
an emergency vehicle stopped on
the road with their emergency lights flashing to do one of two things:
move out of the lane nearest the emergency vehicle or slow down to 20
miles per hour below the posted speed limit (down to a minimum of 5
mph). In other words, if you're going down the freeway in the
right lane and there's an emergency vehicle parked on the right
shoulder ahead, you should immediately move into the next lane to the
left. If you can't, or if you're on a road where there is no
extra lane to move over to, then you must slow down to 20 mph below the
posted limit. The purpose of this law is to give emergency
workers a safe area to work in when they're on or near the road.
"move over" law was expanded in 2013 to include moving over or slowing
down when a tow truck or TxDOT vehicle is parked on the side of the
road with its lights flashing.
Emergency vehicle behind you at a
If you're stopped at the head of the line at a red light and an
emergency vehicle with its lights flashing and siren sounding is behind
you and can't get through or around the traffic, then you should first
try to make room for them if at all possible by scooting
over. If that is not possible, then you should consider
running the red. The law does not specifically require or
allow this, but the spirit of the law dictates that the
right-of-way of the emergency vehicle takes priority over the traffic
signals. Before you go through the red, though, make
sure it is absolutely safe to do so. In most cases,
cross traffic will see your predicament and stop, but if not, nudge
slightly into the intersection as a signal to other drivers but wait
until it is safe before you cross. Then, go through the
intersection, pull over and stop. A safer alternative would
be to turn right, but again, only when it is clear to do so.
Parking in front of fire
| §545.302 - STOPPING, STANDING, OR PARKING
PROHIBITED IN CERTAIN PLACES
- (b) An operator may not, except momentarily to pick
up or discharge a passenger, stand or park an occupied or unoccupied
(2) within 15 feet of a fire hydrant;
You'd think most people would have enough common
sense to know not to park in front of a fire hydrant, but I see it done
all the time. In case of a fire, the fire department needs to
be able to find and access hydrants quickly. If you're parked
in front of it, it obstructs them and delays their response to a
fire. Would you want someone blocking the fire hydrant
nearest your home if it were on fire? (Footnote: Remember the
scene in Backdraft where the firefighters break
the windows of a car parked in front of a hydrant and run the hose
through the car? Apparently, from the photo below, it happens
in real life as well.)
let this be you!
Parking facing the wrong
| §545.303 - ADDITIONAL PARKING REGULATIONS
- (a) An operator who stops or parks on a two-way
roadway shall do so with the right-hand wheels of the vehicle parallel
to and within 18 inches of the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.
- (b) An operator who stops or
parks on a one-way roadway shall stop or park the vehicle parallel to
the curb or edge of the roadway in the direction of authorized traffic
movement with the right-hand wheels within 18 inches of the right-hand
curb or edge of the roadway or the left-hand wheels within 18 inches of
the left-hand curb or edge of the roadway. This subsection does
not apply where a local ordinance otherwise regulates stopping or
parking on the one-way roadway.
parking on a street, it is illegal to park facing oncoming traffic.
Lots of folks do it, though, especially in residential
neighborhoods. But it's illegal because it's generally unsafe for several reasons.
of all, to park facing traffic requires one to drive on the wrong side
of the road, which is illegal unless overtaking another vehicle or
passing an obstruction. And in doing so, pedestrians, cyclists,
or other motorists are not likely expecting you to be coming from that
direction and may enter the street without looking for you.
all cars have reflectors on the rear, but the front of most cars do not
have reflectors, so when parking at night, a vehicle facing the wrong
was is less visible, especially in low-light conditions. Also,
someone approaching a vehicle parked the wrong way in low-visibility
conditions may misinterpret which side of the road it's on and attempt
to go around it on the wrong side.
when leaving a parking space when parked facing traffic, you have to
clear traffic from both directions, a more complicated task,
especially from a parallel position.
the main safety reason is because when if you are parked the wrong way
and another vehicle parks in front of you-- especially one that is
larger, your view of traffic will be blocked since the driver's side is
at the curb instead of on the side of traffic. Therefore, you
would have to pull your vehicle substantially out of the space and into
the traffic lane before being able to see oncoming traffic.
you say, you park where someone won't park in front of you. Yes,
then in that case, this specific reason wouldn't apply. However,
the law does not provide that exception, and for good reason-- sure,
maybe there's not a place to park in front of you. But what if a
car broke down there? Or someone parked illegally there?
Not to mention that the other safety reasons mentioned above
still apply. So take the extra 30 seconds to turn around and park
facing the right way.
Driving with parking lights
| §547.302 - DUTY TO DISPLAY LIGHTS
(a) A vehicle shall display each lighted lamp and illuminating device
required by this chapter to be on the vehicle:
at nighttime; and
when light is insufficient or atmospheric conditions are unfavorable so
that a person or vehicle on the highway is not clearly discernible at a
distance of 1,000 feet ahead.
I shake my head when I see people driving
around in the dark or in bad weather with just their parking lights
on. There's a reason they're called parking
First, let's talk about the law in this
situation. The law requires you to use all your lights
(including headlights) at nighttime, which is defined as being one half
hour after sunset to one half hour before sunrise, as well as any time
when you cannot see clearly for 1,000 feet, which essentially covers
all inclement weather as well as dusk and dawn. Therefore,
you should never be driving with just your parking lights on.
If you're in a situation where you need to have any lights on at all,
then you must use all your lights, which includes your headlights.
Some people will
say that they don't want to use
their headlights during bad weather or at dusk because there's enough
ambient light for them to see and their headlights won't be
illuminating anything. However, headlights are not
lighting-up the road ahead, but they also make you more
other drivers. Headlights are visible at a greater distance than parking lights alone. This is why
motorcycles and emergency vehicles always use their headlights and is
the rationale behind daytime running lamps (see below for more
discussion on DRLs.) So whenever
visibility is reduced, you should use your headlights, if not to help
you see but to help others see you.
Others may argue that using their headlights puts a
strain on their electrical system or battery. This is simply
not true. Your vehicle's electrical system is designed to
operate all of the vehicle's electrical devices, including the
headlights. Your battery is only used to start your car and
to power electrical devices in the car when the engine is not
running. When your engine is running, the alternator, which
is cranked by the engine, is providing power to your vehicle as well as
recharging your battery. If using your headlights does indeed
cause electrical problems for your car, then your car is unsafe and
Parking lights vs Daytime Running
Note that parking lights
are not the same as Daytime Running Lamps.
Parking lights are when you can activate the
front and rear marker lights without turning-on the
headlights (see the photo below for an example.) These are
meant to make your vehicle more visible while it is parked on the side
of a dark road, thus the term "parking lights". However,
parking lights are
somewhat obsolete nowadays and most recent model vehicles
in the United States are no longer equipped with them. For
that have parking lights, there is typically an third setting or
position on the
headlight switch-- position 0 is off, position 1 is the parking lights,
and position 2 is all the lights including the headlights. Daytime
running lamps are essentially the opposite of parking
lights-- they're the headlights illuminated with the front and rear
marker lights off (although some vehicles now have a separate set of
lamps for the DRLs) and are generally automatically
controlled. Wikipedia has a good write-up on the differences
Turn signals in turn-only lane
| §545.104 - SIGNALING TURNS; USE OF TURN SIGNALS
(a) An operator shall use the signal authorized by
Section 545.106 to indicate an intention to turn, change lanes, or
start from a parked position.
(b) An operator intending to turn a vehicle right or left shall signal
continuously for not less than the last 100 feet of movement of the
vehicle before the turn.
(c) An operator may not light the signals on only one side of the
vehicle on a parked or disabled vehicle or use the signals as a
courtesy or "do pass" signal to the operator of another vehicle
approaching from the rear.
There seems to be a rather common misconception
that if you are in a turn-only lane, you are not obliged to signal your
turn. As you can see, however, the law is quite
straightforward-- you must use a turn signal any time
you want to turn or change lanes. There is no exception for
turn-only lanes. The reason is simple: while it may be
obvious to you that you are in a turn-only lane, it may not be evident
to motorists or pedestrians across the intersection or on the
intersecting road. Using your turn-signal clearly indicates
to everyone who may need to know that you are are going to turn.
Some states waive the requirement to
use turn signals if
no other vehicles are in the vicinity, but Texas has no such exception.
You don' t know what you don't know, so you should always
in case there's someone nearby you don't see.
Turning from and into the correct
| §545.101 - TURNING AT INTERSECTION
- (a) To make a right turn at an intersection, an
operator shall make both the approach and the turn as closely as
practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.
- (b) To make a left turn at an intersection, an
- (1) approach the intersection in the extreme
left-hand lane lawfully available to a vehicle moving in the direction
of the vehicle; and
- (2) after entering the intersection, turn left,
leaving the intersection so as to arrive in a lane lawfully available
to traffic moving in the direction of the vehicle on the roadway being
- (c) On a street or roadway designated for two-way
traffic, the operator turning left shall, to the extent practicable,
turn in the portion of the intersection to the left of the center of
- (d) To turn left, an operator who is approaching an
intersection having a roadway designated for one-way traffic and for
which signs are posted from a roadway designated for one-way traffic
and for which signs are posted shall make the turn as closely as
practicable to the left-hand curb or edge of the roadway.
- (e) The Texas Transportation Commission or a local
authority, with respect to a highway in its jurisdiction, may:
- (1) authorize the placement of an official
traffic-control device in or adjacent to an intersection; and
- (2) require a course different from that specified
in this section for movement by vehicles turning at an intersection.
Imagine you are on a street approaching an
intersection with lanes marked
like the right hand illustration above. Recently, I have
increasing number of people turn from the two center lanes. BUZZ!
Unless there are signs and/or
lane markings indicating otherwise, the law only allows you to turn
left from the far left lane or to turn right from the far right lane.
When there are dedicated turn lanes like those in the right
hand example above,
fulfill those roles. So, for example, if you
to turn right from the right hand through lane (i.e. the lane
immediately to the left of the right-only lane), you would only be
permitted to do so if it was marked as shown in the right hand
OK, now that we know which lane to turn from, we
need to know which lanes we can legally turn into. In Texas,
when turning right, you are required to turn both from the right lane
(as discussed aboce) and into the right lane
unless there is an obvious
safety reason not to (e.g. you're driving a long vehicle or there is a
pedestrian or debris in the road) or, of course, if there are signs are
markings indicating otherwise (e.g. a double turn lane.) When
however, you are permitted to turn into any lane designated for traffic
headed in that direction and it is recommended that you pick the lane
that interferes least with other traffic. The exception is if
you're turning left from a one-way street onto another one-way street;
in that case, you must turn from and into the left lane
(i.e. the mirror of a right turn.) Also, if you
are turning from one of two lanes designated for the same turn movement
(i.e. double turn lanes), then you must turn into the appropriate lane
indicated by signs and/or pavement markings. And one final
word: keep in mind that other people may not always follow the law, so
be prepared to yield if necessary, even if you're in the right.
Good driving habits dictate that you turn into the lane nearest
you. So, if you're turning left, you should turn into the
left lane, and if you're turning right, you should turn into the right
Center turn lanes
| §545.060 - DRIVING ON ROADWAY LANED FOR TRAFFIC
- (b) If a roadway is divided into three lanes and
provides for two-way movement of traffic, an operator on the roadway
may not drive in the center lane except:
- (1) if passing another vehicle and the center lane
is clear of traffic within a safe distance;
- (2) in preparing to make a left turn; or
- (3) where the center lane is designated by an
official traffic-control device for movement in the direction in which
the operator is moving.
Center turn lanes are for use only when preparing
to turn left from the main road onto a side street or driveway
only. Only enter the lane just before you are ready to slow
down for the turn. Also, the Federal Highway Administration's
"Read Your Road" guide (link at the bottom of this page) indicates
that, when turning from a side street or driveway onto the main road,
you may also use this lane as a temporary refuge to wait for traffic to
clear as long as you pull into the lane and wait and don't use the
center turn lane as an acceleration lane. However, it is
important to note that Texas law does not seem to specifically permit
this action, and I have had reports that some folks have been cited for
doing this and the court has upheld their citation, so I would
recommend avoiding this maneuver unless you absolutely have
to, and if you do, do not use the center turn lane as an acceleration
lane! Finally, although section (b)(1) above says you can use
the center lane for passing, keep in mind that center lanes marked as
left turn lanes cannot be used for passing as the traffic signs and
pavement markings indicating that the lane is for left turns only take
Crossing over medians or
| §545.063 - DRIVING ON DIVIDED HIGHWAY
- (a) On a highway having two or more roadways
separated by a space, physical barrier, or clearly indicated dividing
section constructed to impede vehicular traffic, an operator shall
drive on the right roadway unless directed or permitted to use another
roadway by an official traffic-control device or police officer.
- (b) An operator may not drive over, across, or in a
dividing space, physical barrier, or section constructed to impede
vehicular traffic except:
- (1) through an opening in the physical barrier or
dividing section or space; or
- (2) at a crossover or intersection established by a
§545.064 - RESTRICTED ACCESS
An operator may not drive on or from a
limited-access or controlled-access roadway except at an entrance or
exit that is established by a public authority.
§545.423 - CROSSING PROPERTY
- (a) An operator may not cross a sidewalk or drive
through a driveway, parking lot, or business or residential entrance
without stopping the vehicle.
An operator may not cross or drive in or on a sidewalk, driveway,
parking lot, or business or residential entrance at an intersection to
turn right or left from one highway to another highway.
It is illegal to
drive across any median.
This includes the median between the freeway and the frontage road,
even when there’s a traffic jam on the freeway. If you want
to get onto the frontage road, get off at the next exit.
You’re an adult-- act like one and be patient. Unless you
have a bona fide emergency, you're not any
more important than anyone else on the road (really, you're not.)
Also be sure to see the section about "flush median islands"
the lane markings section
Similar to driving across the median, it is also illegal to cross
private property for the purpose of turning left or right from one road
to another. In other words, it's illegal to cut-through that
gas station or shopping center on the corner so you don't have to stop
at the stop sign or
red light or to avoid the line of cars waiting at the intersection.
Yielding on frontage roads
| §545.154 - VEHICLE ENTERING OR LEAVING
LIMITED-ACCESS OR CONTROLLED-ACCESS HIGHWAY
An operator on an access or feeder road of a
limited-access or controlled-access highway shall yield the
right-of-way to a vehicle entering or about to enter the access or
feeder road from the highway or leaving or about to leave the access or
feeder road to enter the highway.
This law is quite
simple: if you're on the frontage
road (a.k.a. access road, feeder road, service road, or gateway) of a
freeway or expressway, then you must yield to traffic exiting or
entering the freeway or expressway. This law covers all
entrance and exit ramps, even if there are no yield signs.
There is an exception-- when traffic exiting the freeway has its own
added lane that is separated from the other frontage road lanes with a
double-white line, then no yield is required since
exiting vehicles become established in their lane on the frontage road
(and thus are
no longer considered exiting) by the point in which they are allowed to
move cross the other frontage road lanes. At that point, the
lane change laws apply.
When required to yield, though, note that yielding
does not necessarily mean stopping (see
next topic below.)
Yield vs. stop
| §544.010 - STOP SIGNS AND YIELD SIGNS
- (a) Unless directed to proceed by a police officer
or traffic-control signal, the operator of a vehicle or streetcar
approaching an intersection with a stop sign shall stop as provided by
- (b) If safety requires, the operator of a vehicle
approaching a yield sign shall stop as provided by Subsection (c).
- (c) An operator required to stop by this section
shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the
intersection. In the absence of a crosswalk, the operator shall stop at
a clearly marked stop line. In the absence of a stop line, the operator
shall stop at the place nearest the intersecting roadway where the
operator has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway.
§545.153 - VEHICLE ENTERING STOP OR YIELD
- (a) Preferential right-of-way at an intersection
may be indicated by a stop sign or yield sign as authorized in Section
- (b) Unless directed to proceed by a police officer
or official traffic-control device, an operator approaching an
intersection on a roadway controlled by a stop sign, after stopping as
required by Section 544.010, shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle
that has entered the intersection from another highway or that is
approaching so closely as to be an immediate hazard to the operator's
movement in or across the intersection.
- (c) An operator approaching an intersection on a
roadway controlled by a yield sign shall:
- (1) slow to a speed that is reasonable under the
existing conditions; and
- (2) yield the right-of-way to a vehicle in the
intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to be an
immediate hazard to the operator's movement in or across the
- (d) If an operator is required by Subsection (c) to
yield and is involved in a collision with a vehicle in an intersection
after the operator drove past a yield sign without stopping, the
collision is prima facie evidence that the operator failed to yield the
There's a reason for having two different
signs. "Stop" means that you must come to a complete stop,
period. "Yield", however, doesn't always mean that you have
to stop. Instead, a yield sign means that you must give the
to other traffic by slowing or stopping as necessary. You can
satisfy the requirement to yield by just slowing down enough to let
the other guy go by unmolested. If you can clearly see nobody
is coming, then you can
just proceed without slowing or stopping. So, if you're
approaching a yield sign, start looking early and if the way is clear,
just keep going. However, if it is necessary, you are indeed
required to stop at a yield sign.
Unfortunately, in many areas, it often seems that yield signs
are placed where there should be stop signs and vice-versa.
Europe overwhelmingly prefers yield signs; the US is ridiculously
riddled with unnecessary stop signs.
lot of people might be surprised, but there is no specific Texas state law regarding who goes first at a
four-way or all-way stop. The only applicable law states that
drivers must stop and may enter the intersection only when it is safe
to do so (§545.151). So that leaves the right-of-way
assignment up to the drivers. To that end, there is a widely
accepted convention that most drivers use to remove the
guesswork. Basically, it's first-come,
first-served. Implementing it is easy: when you stop at an
all-way stop, look around and see who's already stopped. When
they've all gone, it's your turn! If two or more people get
there at the same time, then the protocol is that the person on the
right should go first, and it should follow clockwise from there.
Be aware, however, that some municipalities as well as other states do have laws that codify the order above.
Don't back-up on the freeway
| §545.415 - BACKING A VEHICLE
(b) An operator may not back the vehicle on a
shoulder or roadway of a limited-access or controlled-access highway.
Never, ever back-up on the freeway, even on the
shoulder! This is extremely dangerous!
Traffic is coming toward you at high-speed, and one of those drivers
may need to pull off onto the shoulder suddenly or may swerve to avoid
you. If you miss your exit, just drive to the next exit, turn
around, and go back. In most cases, you'll only lose a couple
of minutes. Next time, make sure you know where you're going
and pay attention to the signs.
Move minor accidents out of traffic
| §550.022 - ACCIDENT INVOLVING DAMAGE TO VEHICLE
- (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the
operator of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage
to a vehicle that is driven or attended by a person shall:
- (1) immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of
the accident or as close as possible to the scene of the accident
without obstructing traffic more than is necessary;
- (b) If an accident occurs on a main lane, ramp,
shoulder, median, or adjacent area of a freeway in a metropolitan area
and each vehicle involved can be normally and safely driven, each
operator shall move the operator's vehicle as soon as possible to a
designated accident investigation site, if available, a location on the
frontage road, the nearest suitable cross street, or other suitable
location to complete the requirements of Section 550.023 and minimize
interference with freeway traffic.
- (d) In this section, a vehicle can be normally and
safely driven only if the vehicle:
- (1) does not require towing; and
- (2) can be operated under its own power and in its
usual manner, without additional damage or hazard to the vehicle, other
traffic, or the roadway.
Have you ever been caught in a traffic jam only to
find that it was caused by a minor fender-bender blocking a
lane and everyone is standing around waiting for the police?
Maybe you've thought to yourself, "there oughta be a
law..." Well, there is. The law requires that
anyone involved in an accident not obstruct traffic any more than is
necessary. The law even specifically requires that, if an
accident occurs on a freeway or freeway ramp in a metropolitan area and
all involved vehicles can be safely driven, the motorists involved must
move their vehicles off of the freeway immediately. This is
to help prevent a traffic hazard and resulting congestion which,
besides unnecessarily delaying others, also increases the likelihood of
other accidents. Many people think that their insurance won't
cover them if they move their cars from the scene before the police
arrive, but this is absolutely false. The police and
insurance adjusters can usually determine what happened based on the
those involved and the damage to the vehicles. Besides, in
the case of most fender-benders, you legally don't even need to have
the police come to the scene. But if you're worried, then
quickly snap some photos of the scene and vehicles with your cell
phone camera before you move out of the way.
Driving on the shoulder
| §545.058 - DRIVING ON IMPROVED SHOULDER
- (a) An operator may drive on an improved shoulder
to the right of the main traveled portion of a roadway if that
operation is necessary and may be done safely, but only:
- (1) to stop, stand, or park;
- (2) to accelerate before entering the main traveled
lane of traffic;
(3) to decelerate before making a right turn;
(4) to pass another vehicle that is slowing or stopped on the main
traveled portion of the highway, disabled, or preparing to make a left
(5) to allow another vehicle traveling faster to pass;
(6) as permitted or required by an official traffic control device; or
(7) to avoid a collision
A common question I get, especially for newcomers
to Texas, is whether it is legal to drive on the shoulder of a two-lane
highway to allow other cars to pass as they have seen people
doing. The answer is yes, it is, as declared in (a)(5)
above. You'll find that many long-time Texans
will automatically move onto the shoulder when a faster car comes up
behind them on a two-lane road. It's just a common courtesy
and helps the other person to pass them safely. However,
there are some requirements to do this-- the shoulder must be wide
enough and free of debris or stalled or parked vehicles (it is
generally illegal to park on highways outside of business or
residential districts). If you do move onto the shoulder to
allow someone to pass, reduce your speed a bit, keep a sharp eye out
for any obstructions ahead, and move back into the main through lane as
soon as it is safe to do so.
You are also allowed to briefly drive on the
shoulder to pass a vehicle that is slowing or has stopped in the main
lane to turn left or has stalled. Additionally, you can also
drive on the shoulder to slow down to turn right, to speed up after
turning onto the highway or after having stopped on the shoulder, or to
avoid a collision.
You are not allowed to drive on
the shoulder to overtake another moving vehicle (except as
above). In other words, if the vehicle you are
will not move onto the shoulder to allow you to pass, then you must
pass them on the left when it's legal and safe to do so.
One other frequent question is about using the
shoulder to pass a long line of stopped traffic if you want to turn
right at a driveway or the next intersection. Section (a)(4)
above does seem to allow that, but several officers I've spoken with
tell me that they will cite someone who does this egregiously; for
example, if someone who is racing down the shoulder or who continues on
theshoulder through an intersection.
common area of
confusion regards U-turns. It
seems everyone has a different idea of what is legal and isn't
regarding U-turns. There is only one state law specifically
regarding U-turns: §545.102, which prohibits a U-turn if you are not
visible within 500 feet of approaching traffic. Otherwise,
U-turns are allowed
anywhere as long as there is not a sign or local ordinance prohibiting
it. Many municipalities have ordinances
limiting U-turns in specific areas, such as in business districts or at
signalized intersections, and these restrictions are may not be not
signed. Check with your local police or traffic engineering
department to see if there is such an ordinance in your city.
If you want to make a U-turn at a traffic light, you
cannot do so unless the left turn signal is green or, if there is no
left turn signal, the light for through traffic is green.
Whenever you make a U-turn, you must, of course, yield to oncoming
traffic just as if you were making a left turn. If you make a
U-turn with a green signal, anyone wanting to
make a right-on-red is required to yield to you, but keep in mind that
they may not realize you're making a U-turn until they've started
making their turn, so be prepared to yield to them.
Don't stop on entrance ramps
Unless traffic on the freeway is completely stopped or you can't merge
and there is no
place else for you to go, do not ever stop on a freeway
ramp! This is an extremely serious traffic
hazard. Drivers behind you are speeding-up to get up to
freeway speed and are looking back up the freeway for a gap to merge
into. They are not expecting you to stop!
If you can't squeeze into traffic by the time you get
to the end of the ramp, make sure your left turn signal is on and
carefully continue on the shoulder (if it's clear) until you can safely
into the traffic
Be helpful to traffic entering
If you're in the right lane of a freeway and see traffic preparing to
merge, move over or give them room to merge. Although the law
requires traffic entering the freeway to yield (basic right-of-way law,
§545.151), good drivers make the effort to help-out other motorists.
Merging from the shoulder
stop on the shoulder to change a flat
tire or deal with some other emergency and you’re ready to get back on
the freeway, get up to speed on the shoulder, then signal left and
merge into traffic. Do not pull from a standing
stop directly onto the freeway’s main lanes. This
very action killed a mother and van full of children west of Ft. Worth
back in the mid ‘90s.
Drive right, pass left
| §545.051 - DRIVING ON RIGHT SIDE OF ROADWAY
- (b) An operator of a vehicle on a roadway moving
more slowly than the normal speed of other vehicles at the time and
place under the existing conditions shall drive in the right-hand lane
available for vehicles, or as close as practicable to the right-hand
curb or edge of the roadway, unless the operator is:
- (1) passing another vehicle; or
- (2) preparing for a left turn at an intersection or
into a private road or driveway.
Before I explain this one, let me ask you this:
where is the fastest water in a river? In the middle, of
course. Why? Because this is the place with the
least friction. This is the deepest part of the river and
there are no ragged edges to slow the water. A highway
the same way (think of it as a two-way river.) The right lane
has the most "friction": entering and exiting traffic, stalled
vehicles on the shoulder, etc. The left lane has virtually no
friction. That is why it is reserved for faster-moving
Imagine this scenario: you're in the left lane on
the freeway going faster than other traffic and you come up behind
someone going a little slower than you. Instead of waiting a
few seconds for them to move over, you whip around them on the
right. At the same time, someone going much slower than you
is trying to get on the freeway at the same location. Now,
both of you are creating a big hazard for each other and someone is
going to have to give. This is why (a) you shouldn't pass on
the right; and (b) you should move to the right if you're traveling
slower than other traffic. The second part applies no matter
how fast you are going. Notice that the law only says that
traffic moving "more slowly" than other vehicles; there is no exception
given for vehicles traveling the posted speed limit. If
you're going the speed limit in the left lane and someone behind you
wants to go faster, move over! You don't have any right to
enforce the law (that's called vigilantism) and you're actually
law by not moving over. You never know-- that person may have
a bona fide emergency. On the other hand, if you're the one
behind the slower driver, have a little patience and give them a few
seconds to realize you're there and to move over before you zip around
them. I can't
count the number of times I've seen someone in the left lane who wanted
to move over but got trapped there because everyone immediately passed
them on the right. Plus, the weaving of drivers who
are constantly passing other vehicles causes
hazards and the
turbulence caused by those frequent lane changes is a frequent
instigator of so-called "phantom" traffic jams.
Right-of-way when changing lanes
| §545.061 - DRIVING ON MULTIPLE-LANE ROADWAY
On a roadway divided into three or more lanes and
providing for one-way movement of traffic, an operator entering a lane
of traffic from a lane to the right shall yield the right-of-way to a
vehicle entering the same lane of traffic from a lane to the left.
This is probably one of the least-known
someone from the left lane and someone from the right lane both try to
move into the same space in the center lane at the same time, who
should yield the
the right-of-way? In Texas, the law is that the person
changing lanes from right to left must yield to someone trying to enter
the same lane from the left.
One lane at a time
Although there’s no law requiring it, you should only change one lane
at a time. If you need to get across several lanes, move over
one lane, establish yourself in that lane for a few seconds, then move
over to the next lane. And don't forget your turn signal each
time as required by §545.104!
the speed limit on the curve marked by the sign at the left?
Most people would say 25 mph, but the answer is that we don't have
enough information to know what the speed limit is here. The
"25 mph" sign here is a speed advisory sign, not a
speed limit sign. Speed advisory signs
indicate the recommended speed for a particular hazard, but they are
not a legal speed limit. Enforceable speed limits are marked
by the familiar black and white SPEED LIMIT signs. So, the
speed limit for this curve would be whatever the last black and white
speed limit sign indicated (or the default speed limit for that type of
roadway in the absence of a speed limit sign. Despite
that, it is a good idea to travel at
about the speed indicated on these signs-- you could still be citied
for unsafe speed if you're traveling appreciably faster than what is
posted, especially if you have an accident.
A study by the Federal Highway Administration back in the '90s
determined that the formula used to calculate the advisory speeds on
curves, which was developed back in the 1930s, was significantly
outdated and was producing advisory speeds that were 10-15 mph below
what modern vehicles can safely and comfortably handle. New
methods and procedures for improving the setting of advisory speeds has
been developed and many
states are now updating advisory speed signs. If
you are used to ignoring advisory speeds because they seemed too low,
you'll need to start paying more attention to them.
Turning left across a median
common question regards the proper way to turn left across a
specifically, do you keep to the near side or cross over to the far
side? The answer is that it depends on the width of the
In Texas, if the median is 30 feet or more wide
then each side of the median is considered to be a separate
This means that crossovers through the median are considered to be a
cross street, albeit a very short one. So in those cases, you
must keep to the right as you cross
over, just as if you were driving on a regular street.
if this is the case, there will be a set of double-yellow lines in the
middle of the crossover as well as yield or stop signs; these are your
cue to keep to the right while passing through.
median is less than 30 feet wide, then you would make a "regular" left
turn; that is, stay on the near side as you turn left. There
usually no signs or markings in the crossover in this situation.
Passing a funeral
most of the state, especially in rural areas, it is the convention for
drivers, out of respect for the deceased, to pull-over and stop while a
funeral passes by. I suspect that as a result, many folks
think that it is actually the law to do so. In fact, it is
not. While many states have laws that require drivers to
yield to a funeral procession, Texas has no such law. Funeral
processions are frequently escorted by peace officers, and obviously if
they indicate for you to yield, then you must do so.
Otherwise, if you're driving down the road and a funeral procession
approaches, you are not obligated by the law to pull over. If
you do, be sure to pull completely off the road so if others wish to
pass, they can do so safely.
sites of interest