Texas Traffic Laws (and good driving habits)
This page last updated
February 29, 2012
We've all seen it. And,
from what I've seen, 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 and just doesn't think the rules apply
to them (or doesn't care.) However, in
most cases, the bad driver probably isn't even aware that they're doing anything
wrong and would likely alter their behavior if they knew the problems
they were causing. That is the intention of this page.
After more than
two decades of driving the
streets and freeways of Texas on a regular basis, I have compiled a list
of what I consider to be the most-violated traffic laws and good driving
practices. Hopefully, enough people will read this and modify
their driving accordingly resulting in a safer and more pleasant driving
experience for all of us.
Whenever applicable, I've quoted
the Texas Transportation Code. Those references are in a grey box
and start with the section number (e.g. §545.066.) Wherever you see the term
"operator" in the law, it is referring to you, the operator of a motor
vehicle. After each citation, I've included my own comments to
better explain or clarify the law.
If you want to look up the the
laws yourself, you can do so at
everything pertaining to traffic laws is in Sections 544 and 545.
The Texas Department of Public Safety's Driver's Manual is also online
Texas Manual of Uniform Traffic Devices, which is the official "law"
regarding the meaning of traffic signs, signals, and markings, is at
In addition to the little-known
laws, I've also included several good driving habits that I've learned
over the years driving and observing all over the US and Europe. I
believe that if more people adopted these habits, traffic flow and
safety would be greatly improved.
One 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 lose it and shoot 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 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, in my own humble opinion,
traffic enforcement (especially speed enforcement) in many
places is done simply for revenue enhancement, and officers may
get overzealous and sloppy in their duties as a result.
Your comments and suggestions
are welcome. We are all in this together. 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
The 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.
Links 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
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.
Listing of topics
Below is a list of topics on
this site. I have grouped the topics based on what I consider to
be traits of "basic", "intermediate", and "advanced" drivers;
your mileage may vary.
Basic: These are things all
drivers should know. If you miss any of these, you should go back
the DPS driver's manual (link at the bottom of this page.)
Intermediate: If you consider yourself a “good” driver, then you
really should know
Advanced: These are
things a sophisticated driver will know.
Miscellaneous: Other topics I have had lots of questions about.
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.
It seems that
many people have no idea what the various lane markings mean;
lots of folks don't even know what the difference is between white and 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.
||WHITE LINES: These separate traffic going the
direction. There are several varieties of white lines; see
below for the meanings 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 obstacle 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 (see below.)
||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 demark two-way center left turn lanes.
||BROKEN YELLOW LINE:
A single broken (dashed) yellow line means that passing is
permitted in both directions.
||BROKEN DOUBLE YELLOW
LINES: This marking is fairly rare and is used to separate
reversible lanes. Pay attention to and obey the lane control
signs or signals.
||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.
||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 might think twice about
it. A single white line is
also used simply to mark the right edge of the roadway.
||BROKEN WHITE LINE:
A broken (dashed) white line separates lanes of traffic
traveling in the same direction.
TURNING LEFT OVER
One of the biggest misconceptions over 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: PASSING ZONES
- (b) 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
designed to mark a no-passing zone.
subsection does not
prohibit a driver from crossing pavement striping, or
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.
There is an exception to the left-turn-over-double-yellow-lines
rule: if there are two sets of double-yellow lines, you may
not cross over at all, including for left turns. These are
areas that are considered to be "intervening spaces" similar to
medians or traffic islands. Many times these areas will also
have diagonal hash markings.
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
(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.
A flashing yellow signal simply means "proceed with caution", even when
it's being displayed by regular traffic signal. Most traffic signals
will switch to a flash mode as a fail-safe measure if there has been a
malfunction or power outage and the signal has not been reset.
Some signals also go to flash-mode during periods of low traffic. Unbelievably, I often see people actually stop
when they come upon a regular traffic signal that is flashing yellow.
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 you
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 sign.
TRAFFIC-CONTROL SIGNALS IN GENERAL
operator of a vehicle facing a traffic-control signal
that does not display an indication in any of the signal
heads shall stop ... as if the intersection had a stop
Believe it or not, this law was
only enacted in 2003. Before that, there was no specific law on
this subject. But now there is-- 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. Period. 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.
for school buses
§545.066 - PASSING A SCHOOL
operator on a highway, when approaching from either
direction a school bus stopped on the highway to receive
or discharge a student:
stop before reaching the school bus when the bus is
operating a visual signal as required by Section
not proceed until:
the school bus resumes motion;
the operator is signaled by the bus driver to
the visual signal is no longer actuated.
operator on a highway having separate roadways is not
required to stop:
(1) for a
school bus that is on a different roadway; or
(2) if on
a controlled-access highway, for a school bus that
a loading zone that is a part of or adjacent to
the highway; and
where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the
(f) For the
purposes of this section:
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
highway is not considered to have separate roadways
if the highway has roadways separated only by a left
This was the most requested
addition to my page before I added it. It seems many drivers are
confused or simply have no clue about the requirement to stop for school
buses. When a school bus has stopped and its red alternating
lights are flashing, you must stop. Most school buses also have a
stop sign on the side near the driver that swings out to remind you of
your duty to stop. Traffic heading in both directions is required
to stop. The only exception is if there is a physical median
between you and the school bus; in that case, you can proceed, but you
should do so cautiously. 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 these. Note that the law specifically indicates that left turn lanes do not
count as medians. So, 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. The requirement to stop applies in both urban as
well as rural areas.
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.
in Texas traffic code, the term "highway" is defined to mean
any public roadway, including city streets. (§541.302)
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. 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'
hazard flashers. Again, in this case, you are not required to
stop. Finally, many school buses also have yellow
alternating lights next to 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 emergency vehicles
§545.156 - VEHICLE
APPROACHED BY AUTHORIZED EMERGENCY VEHICLE
(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,
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
and remain standing until the authorized emergency
vehicle has passed.
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.
PASSING AUTHORIZED EMERGENCY VEHICLE
(b) A violation of
this section is:
- (a) On approaching a
stationary authorized emergency vehicle using visual
signals that meet the requirements of Sections 547.305
and 547.702, an operator, unless otherwise directed by a
police officer, shall:
- (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:
- (A) 20 miles
per hour less than the posted speed limit when
the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or
- (B) five miles per hour when the posted speed
limit is less than 25 miles per hour.
(c) 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.
- (1) a misdemeanor
punishable under Section 542.401;
- (2) a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500 if
the violation results in property damage; or
- (3) a Class B misdemeanor if the violation results
in bodily injury.
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, emergency vehicles have
automatic right-of-way at all intersections, even if you otherwise have
the right-of-way (see "Look Before Crossing Intersections" below).
The second law is fairly new
(passed in 2003) and 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
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.
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 common sense
and the spirit of the law dictate 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 hydrants
§545.302 - STOPPING,
STANDING, OR PARKING PROHIBITED IN
operator may not, except momentarily to pick up or
discharge a passenger, stand or park an occupied or
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: I love the scene in
Backdraft where the firefighters break the windows of a Mercedes
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.)
this be you!
Driving with parking lights only
§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:
- (1) at nighttime;
- (2) 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 get rather annoyed 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 lights. 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 anytime 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 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. Good
drivers know, however, that headlights are not only for
lighting-up the road ahead, but also they make you more visible
to other drivers. This is why motorcycles and emergency
vehicles use their headlights, and is also the rationale behind
daytime running lamps*. 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 needs repair.
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 the road, thus the term "parking lights".
that have them, 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 the headlights. However,
parking lights are somewhat obsolete nowadays and most (if not all)
recent model vehicles in the United States are no longer
equipped with them. 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
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
(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 that are are going
from and into the correct lane
§545.101 - TURNING AT
(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 operator shall:
approach the intersection in the extreme left-hand
lane lawfully available to a vehicle moving in the
direction of the vehicle; and
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 entered.
(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 the intersection.
(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:
authorize the placement of an official
traffic-control device in or adjacent to an
require a course different from that specified in
this section for movement by vehicles turning at an
you are on a street approaching an intersection and there are
four lanes to the right of the center marked like the
illustration above. Recently, I have seen an
increasing number of people turn left from
lane B and/or turn right from lane C. Wrong! 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, such as in the
example above, those lanes fulfill those roles. If you're in lanes B or C above, you
are only permitted to go straight. If lanes A and D did
not exist in the example above, then you could turn left or go
straight from lane B or turn right or go straight from lane C.
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 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
When turning left, 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 into the left lane. Also, if you are turning from one of two lanes designated for the
same turn movement (i.e. dual turn lanes),
then you must turn into the appropriate lane as 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 lane.
§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:
passing another vehicle and the center lane is clear
of traffic within a safe distance;
preparing to make a left turn; or
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.
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 precedence.
medians or private property
§545.063 - DRIVING ON
(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.
operator may not drive over, across, or in a dividing
space, physical barrier, or section constructed to
impede vehicular traffic except:
through an opening in the physical barrier or
dividing section or space; or
(2) at a
crossover or intersection established by a public
§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
operator may not cross a sidewalk or drive through a
driveway, parking lot, or business or residential
entrance without stopping the vehicle.
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 it and be patient.
You're not any more important than anyone else on the road (really,
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 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.
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. Even if
the traffic leaving the freeway merges into a separate lane, you are
still technically required to yield. After all, they may want to quickly move over
to the right lane to turn. Note, though, that yielding does not
necessarily mean stopping (see below.)
§544.010 - STOP SIGNS AND
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 Subsection (c).
(b) If safety
requires, the operator of a vehicle approaching a yield
sign shall stop as provided by Subsection (c).
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
§545.153 - VEHICLE ENTERING
STOP OR YIELD INTERSECTION
Preferential right-of-way at an intersection may be
indicated by a stop sign or yield sign as authorized in
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.
operator approaching an intersection on a roadway
controlled by a yield sign shall:
to a speed that is reasonable under the existing
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 intersection.
(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 right-of-way.
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. "Yield" means that you must yield the
right-of-way to other traffic by slowing or stopping as necessary.
You can satisfy the requirements to yield by just slowing down enough to
let the other guy go by unmolested. If nobody is coming, you can
just keep going 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 city neighborhoods, 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.
back-up on the freeway
§545.415 - BACKING A
(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.
believe it or not, no specific 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.
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:
immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the
accident or as close as possible to the scene of the
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:
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? 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 adjustors can determine what happened
from the stories of 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 pictures of the scene and vehicles with your cell
phone camera before you move.
on the shoulder
§545.058 - DRIVING ON
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:
to stop, stand, or park;
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 turn;
(5) to allow another vehicle traveling faster to
(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 most experienced drivers in
Texas 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
and keep a sharp eye out for any obstructions ahead.
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 provided above). If the vehicle you are
behind 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
One of the most frequent questions
I get is regarding 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 cannot see 500 feet in front of you. Otherwise, U-turns are
allowed anywhere as long as there is not a sign or local ordinance prohibiting it. 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,
you have the right-of-way over someone making a right-on-red.
That said, many
municipalities have ordinances limiting U-turns in specific
areas, such as business districts, or at signalized
intersections, and these restrictions are frequently not signed.
Check with your local police or public works department to see
if there is such an ordinance in your city.
Look before crossing intersections
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 before you cross any
Yellow traffic light
TRAFFIC-CONTROL SIGNALS IN GENERAL
operator of a vehicle facing a steady yellow signal
is warned by that signal that:
movement authorized by a green signal is being
red signal is to be given.
Many people are unclear 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 other direction can have a green while you have a yellow, a
yellow still indicates that you have the right-of-way, and is
essentially an extension of the green (but puts you on notice that the
green is expiring.) As such, you are allowed to enter the
intersection when the light is yellow, and as long as you have
entered the intersection 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
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.
stop on entrance ramps
Unless traffic on the freeway is completely stopped, or there is no
place for you to go, do not ever stop on a freeway entrance 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 until you can merge into the traffic stream.
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.
Also, if you 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
Waiting in intersections
§545.302 - STOPPING,
STANDING, OR PARKING PROHIBITED IN CERTAIN PLACES
operator may not stop, stand, or park a vehicle:
(3) in an
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
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. It's amazing to me that 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 green light but no green arrow. Instead of waiting
behind the line, you should move about ¼ 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.) Isn't this considered running
a red light, though? No, because you lawfully entered 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
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.
If you are waiting in an intersection when the light turns red,
you should never back out of the intersection. Just wait for
the traffic to clear and then complete your turn.
DON'T BLOCK INTERSECTIONS
If the 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.
With congestion your egress is blocked by stopped traffic which will
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 out of the intersection until there's room for you,
New York City had such a problem with blocked intersections that
they started a public education program called "Don't Block The Box!"
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 intersections.
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.
right, pass left
§545.051 - DRIVING ON RIGHT
SIDE OF ROADWAY
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:
passing another vehicle; or
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 works the same
way (think of it as a two-way river.) The right lane has the most
"friction": entering and exiting traffic and stalled vehicles on the
shoulder. The left lane has virtually no friction. That is
why it is reserved for faster-moving traffic.
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! It is
neither your right nor your privilege to enforce the law, and you're
actually violating the law by not moving over. You never know--
that person may have a bonafide 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 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 the
driver who constantly passes people causes hazards for other drivers and
the turbulence caused by their frequent lane changes often causes kinks in the traffic flow.
when changing lanes
§545.061 - DRIVING ON
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.
one of the least-known laws. When 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 has the right-of-way? In Texas,
the law is that the person changing lanes from left to right has the
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 (which, by the
way, is required by §545.104)!
§544.007 - TRAFFIC-CONTROL
SIGNALS IN GENERAL
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:
left, if the intersecting streets are both one-way
streets and a left turn is permissible.
This is one of my major pet
peeves. Whenever I drive downtown, I always 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...
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
However, there are
some people who insist 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 the green
signals for through traffic would 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 such.
RIGHT ON RED FROM DUAL TURN LANES
In a 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 below.
is 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.
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 handle. Work (and debate) continues on
updating and refining the methods used to calculate
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
significantly faster than what is posted, especially if you have an
Across 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 always escorted by peace officers, and
obviously if they indicate for you to yield, then you must do so.
But otherwise, if you're driving down the road and a funeral
procession approaches, you are not obligated by the law to pull
Changing lanes in an
I'm 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 case when changing lanes.)
There's nothing inherently special about being in an intersection that
would legally preclude someone from changing lanes, and if this were the
law, it would be very difficult to ever change lanes along most
major streets since there is an intersection every block!
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 that statute:
545.056 - DRIVING TO LEFT OF CENTER OF ROADWAY:
LIMITATIONS OTHER THAN PASSING
(a) An operator may
not drive to
the left side of the roadway if the operator
approaching within 100 feet of an intersection
railroad grade crossing in a municipality;
approaching within 100 feet of an intersection
railroad grade crossing outside a municipality
and the intersection
or crossing is shown by a sign or marking in
accordance with Section
approaching within 100 feet of a bridge,
or tunnel; or
- (4) awaiting
access to a ferry operated by the Texas
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 and 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
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.
Other sites of interest