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Texas traffic laws





Texas Traffic Laws (and good driving habits)

This page last updated April 7, 2017


We've 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.

After more than three decades of driving and observing the streets and freeways 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.

Whenever applicable, I've quoted the Texas Transportation Code. Those references are in a gray 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 vehicle. After each citation, I've included my own comments to help better explain or clarify the law.

If you want to look up the the laws yourself, you can do so at http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/?link=TN. 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 http://www.dps.texas.gov/internetforms/Forms/DL-7.pdf. The Texas Manual of Uniform Traffic Devices, which is the official "law" regarding the meaning of traffic signs, signals, and markings, is at http://www.txdot.gov/government/enforcement/signage/tmutcd.html.

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 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 get it right, 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 and sloppy in their duties as a result.

We're 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.

Legal disclaimers

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.

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 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. Don't text while driving. Live long and prosper.

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.

Listing of topics

Below is a list of topics on this site:


Lane markings

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 Manual on Uniform 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 and yellow lines. So, without further ado, here are the definitions of lane markings in Texas:

Two-way road 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.
Double yellow line 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 below.)
Single yellow line 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 and broken 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 BROKEN YELLOW LINE: A single broken (dashed) yellow line means that passing is permitted in both directions.
Broken double yellow 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.
One-way road WHITE LINES: These separate traffic going the same direction. There are several varieties of white lines; see below for the meanings of each.
Double white line 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 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. Note that there is an exception; see sidebar below. 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 BROKEN WHITE LINE: A broken (dashed) white line separates lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction.
Short broken white line SHORT BROKEN WHITE LINE: A short broken (dashed) white line marks a lane that will soon become an exit or turn only lane.

In the explanation above, it is noted that crossing a single white line-- even a thick one-- is allowed. However, there is an exception to that-- the channelizing island. This is when there are two single white lines that are converging or diverging in a roughly trianglular shape. The area between the lines in this case is known as a "neutral area" in which vehicles are not allowed as it is considered to be the theoretical extension of the tapered unpaved "gore" area.


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:

(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 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.

There 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 median 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
(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 terminated; or
(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 while you have a yellow, other traffic must still yield to you. As such, you are 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

(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 sign. Otherwise, just proceed through with a bit of extra caution.

Most traffic 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 also go into flash mode during overnight hours, and new signals are typically run in flash mode for a few days before being fully activated.

This signal does
not mean stop!

Traffic signals out

(i) An operator of a vehicle facing a 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 the light is off, they can just keep going, but if someone on the intersecting street thinks the same thing at the same time, then hopefully you can imagine 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 that this does not apply to signals on freeway entrance ramps (metering or "flow" signals) as well the new pedestrian crossing signals that are dark until activated.

This signal DOES
mean stop!

Turning on red
(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.

Whenever 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 with no traffic coming. If only they knew that they were wasting their time (and mine) sitting there. 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 would be), then drivers are required to obey it regardless of the absence of any 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.

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. The answer is yes, so long as there aren't any signs prohibiting it such as those shown below.


Waiting in intersections
(a) An operator may not stop, stand, or park a vehicle:

(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.

Sometimes, you come to an intersection where you want to turn left and there's a flashing yellow arrow or a green through signal but no green arrow. Instead of waiting behind the line, you should move about one-forth to one-third 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 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 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.

If 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 case, it 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.

Avoid backing out of an intersection
If you are waiting in an intersection when the light turns red, don't back out of the intersection. Just wait for oncoming traffic to clear and then complete your turn. Don't worry if this means you have to wait in the intersection for a few seconds after the light has turned red-- just stay calm and wait until it's safe to turn. If anyone on the intersecting road honks at you, you can be secure in the knowledge that they're in the wrong.

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 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 several Texas cities have now adopted it 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 intersections.

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 intersection

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 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 feet! Hopefully this will squelch this urban legend once and for all.

Additional information
Several people have written me saying that §545.056 does in fact prohibit changing lanes in an intersection. However, they are incorrectly interpreting the statute. Here is the text of that statute:


(a) An operator may not drive to the left side of the roadway if the operator is:

(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 545.055;
(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 intersections

Even if you have a green light, you should always look both ways before you cross any intersection. You don't know... there could be somebody running the red or maybe an emergency vehicle approaching. So always look both ways before you cross any intersection.

Stopping for school buses
(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 proceed; or
(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 roadway; or
(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 the roadway.
(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.

It's been reported by numerous school districts and police agencies that many drivers either have no clue about the requirement to stop for school buses or simply are not paying attention (I hope it's not that they don't care, although in this day and age, it's certainly possible.) If you are approaching 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 swings out to remind 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 (i.e. a freeway), but I think that's an artifact from the old days as I have never actually seen one of these.

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 stop.

Yellow flashing lights
Finally, 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 emergency vehicles


(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.


(a) 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;
(2) a stationary tow truck using equipment authorized by Section 547.305(d); and
(3) 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 Section 547.105.
(b) On approaching a vehicle described by Subsection (a), 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 more; or
(B) five miles per hour when the posted speed limit is less than 25 miles per hour.
(c) A violation of this section is:
(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.
(d) 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 quoted above is obviously 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" above.)

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.

The "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 traffic signal
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 hydrants
(b) An operator may not, except momentarily to pick up or discharge a passenger, stand or park an occupied or unoccupied vehicle:
(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.)

Don't let this be you!

Parking facing the wrong direction
(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.

When parallel 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.

First 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 on that side of the street and may enter the street without looking for you.

Secondly, 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.

Also, 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.

But, perhaps the biggest issue is because when 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 nearly completely blocked since the driver is on the curb side instead of on the traffic side. 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.

But, 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.


Using your hazard lights while parking illegally

Many people, when parked illegally, will switch on their hazard lights (flashers). I've heard that they do so to indicate that they're parking for "just a minute" and that they'll be right back. Some even believe it somehow legalizes what they're doing.

It doesn't.

If the sign says "no parking", then that means no parking. At all. It doesn't mean "no parking except for a minute or two." If that's what they meant, then the sign would say that. So switching on your hazards to say you'll be back in a minute doesn't exempt you from the law. In fact, many parking enforcement officers say that a car with their flashers on is a beacon to them that the car is parked illegally. And, it implies that the driver knew they were parking illegally.

The upshot is that using your flashers when you're illegally parked does not magically make it legal.

Driving with parking lights only
(a) A vehicle shall display each lighted lamp and illuminating device required by this chapter to be on the vehicle:
(1) at nighttime; and
(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.

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 only for lighting-up the road ahead for you to see, but they also make you more visible to 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 also 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 needs repair.

So what are parking lights for then? They're mostly a relic from before hazard flashers were common. Their purpose was to give your car visibility while stopped on the side of the road. They're essentially obsolete now and many manufacturers have eliminated them.

Parking lights vs Daytime Running Lamps
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 intended to make your vehicle more visible while it is parked on the side of a dark road, thus the term "parking lights".
However, as discussed above, parking lights mostly obsolete nowadays and many recent model vehicles in the United States are no longer equipped with them. For vehicles 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 (although some vehicles now have a completely separate set of lamps for the DRLs) with the front, rear, and side marker lights off and are generally automatically controlled. Wikipedia has a good write-up on the differences at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automotive_lighting.

Parking lights

Turn signals in turn-only lane
(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.

It might seem logical that if you are in a turn-only lane, you don't need to signal your turn. As you can see above, 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 and to the guy behind 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 signal in case there's someone nearby you don't see.

Turning from and into the correct lane
(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:
(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 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:
(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.


Turn lanes

Imagine you are on a street approaching an intersection with lanes marked like the right hand illustration above. Recently, I have seen an 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, those lanes fulfill those roles. So, for example, if you wanted 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 illustration below.

Turn lanes

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 above) 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 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 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 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.

Extra tip
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 if possible.

Center turn lanes
(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, absolutely 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 precedence.

Crossing over medians or private property
(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 public authority.


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.


(a) An operator may not cross a sidewalk or drive through a driveway, parking lot, or business or residential entrance without stopping the vehicle.
(b) 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. Crossing medians is rife with hazards to you, your car, and other drivers, and many times you won't gain any advantage doing so anyway. Also be sure to see the section about "flush median islands" in the lane markings section above.

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

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 the exiting vehicles will become established in their lane on the frontage road (and thus are no longer considered exiting) by the point at which they are allowed to move cross the other frontage road lanes. At that point, the regular lane change laws apply.

When required to yield, though, note that yielding does not necessarily mean stopping (see next topic below.)  

Yield vs. stop
(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 Subsection (c).
(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.


(a) Preferential right-of-way at an intersection may be indicated by a stop sign or yield sign as authorized in Section 544.003.
(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 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. Instead, a yield sign means that you must give the right-of-way 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.


Four-way stops

A 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.

Also note that there are times when a driver doesn't necessarily have to wait for their turn. For instance, if you're the last to arrive at an intersection with cars already stopped on the other three approaches and you want to turn right, you could go immediately if the driver on your right starts to turn left or if the driver across from you goes straight since those movements don't conflict with yours and provide "cover" for you while you're turning.

Don't back-up on the freeway

(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! Besides being illegal, this is extremely dangerous! Traffic is coming toward you at high-speed, and if you're backing-up, you're essentially going the wrong way and risk the equivalent of a head-on collision. 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
(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 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 photos of the scene and vehicles with your cell phone camera before you move out of the way.

Driving on the 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 turn;
(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 (duh.)

You are not allowed to drive on the shoulder to overtake another moving vehicle (except as provided above). In other words, if the vehicle you are following 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, someone who gets on the should before the end of the line, someone who is racing down the shoulder, or who continues on the shoulder through an intersection. Those all seem like good reasons to me to get a ticket.




An operator may not turn the vehicle to move in the opposite direction when approaching a curve or the crest of a grade if the vehicle is not visible to the operator of another vehicle approaching from either direction within 500 feet

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.
However, many municipalities have ordinances limiting U-turns in specific areas, such as in business districts or at signalized intersections, and these restrictions may not be not signed. Check with your local police or traffic engineering department to see if there are any such ordinances 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 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 (if it's clear) until you can safely merge into the traffic stream.

Be helpful to traffic entering the freeway
If you're in the right lane of a freeway and see traffic preparing to merge, move over or make room for them to merge into. 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
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 mid ‘90s.

Drive right, pass left
(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 or shallow bottom to slow the water. A highway conceptually works 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 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! You don't have any right to enforce the law (that's called vigilantism) and you're actually violating the 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 cause of so-called "phantom" traffic jams.


Right-of-way when changing lanes

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.

Lane change

This is probably 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 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. The reason why the left lane driver has priority is because the they may be moving over to allow another vehicle to pass, because they're getting ready to exit, or because they have an emergency and need to move to the shoulder.

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!

Advisory speeds

What 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.) Despite that, it is a good idea to travel at or near the speed indicated on these signs-- you could still be cited for unsafe speed if you're traveling appreciably faster than what is posted, especially if you crash.

Additional information
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 have 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

A common question regards the proper way to turn left across a median; 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 median.

In Texas, if the median is 30 feet or more wide (nominally), then each side of the median is considered to be a separate roadway. 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. Usually, 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.

If the median is less than 30 feet wide, then you would make a "regular" left turn; that is, keep to the left as you turn. There are usually no signs or markings in the crossover in this situation.

Passing a funeral

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. Also, while many states have laws that require drivers to yield to a funeral procession, Texas has no such law. However, funeral processions are usually 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 wish to do so, be sure to pull completely off the road so if others want to continue on, they can do so safely.

Other sites of interest

Texas Transportation Code
Texas Department of Public Safety's Driver's Manual
Texas Manual of Uniform Traffic Devices
Read Your Road
Real World Driving Tips
Defensive Driving: 70 Rules to Live By

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