Whether you’re a new resident, a long-time Texan, or just visiting, you must follow the Texas rules of the road whenever you get behind the wheel. The lawyers at Lee, Gober & Reyna want you to be safe on Texas streets, so we’re here to give you a brief overview of essential traffic laws in Texas.
Rules for Texas Roads
Since the Lone Star state is so large, the rules of the road in Texas are set by the Texas Department of Transportation. These rules and traffic laws are in place to help protect our citizens and keep everyone safe while driving. We’ve included some examples below to familiarize you with traffic laws in Texas.
Check All of Your Surroundings When Reversing
Reversing causes multiple blind spots for drivers. And while backup cameras and proximity sensors are helpful tools, drivers shouldn’t rely on them exclusively. You must check your surroundings using mirrors and windows BEFORE using your backup camera.
In 2019, 10,335 Texas drivers reported reversing as a factor in car accidents. Many of these accidents happened because the driver didn’t see an obstacle, pedestrian, bicyclist, or vehicle behind them. When you take the extra time to thoroughly observe your surroundings before backing up, you can significantly reduce your chances of a reversing accident.
Slow Traffic Keeps Right — The Left Lane Is for Passing
Even if it wasn’t a traffic law in the Lone Star State, a crucial Texas rule of the road is to move over if you’re not going fast enough. The rightmost lane is considered the “slow” lane and is meant for drivers going slightly slower than the posted speed limit, while the left lane is for drivers going somewhat faster than the speed limit.
For roadways with three or more lanes, the right is still “slow,” the left is still “fast,” and the middle lane is for people going the speed limit and keeping up with the traffic flow. Another traffic law in Texas is keeping right unless passing another vehicle. After you pass, you should move back to the right lane to help minimize congestion and maintain traffic flow.
Keep a Safe Following Distance
Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.062 stipulates that a driver should maintain a following distance that allows them to “safely stop without colliding with the preceding vehicle or veering into another vehicle, object, or person on or near the highway.” A good rule of thumb is to follow the three-second rule, which means there should be at least three seconds of travel space between you and the car in front of you.
This distance rule can help you better respond to sudden traffic changes and reduce potential collision risks. In inclement weather or traffic congestion, you should increase your following distance to five or six seconds for your safety.
Use Your Turn Signals When Turning or Changing Lanes
When driving somewhere, you usually know where you’re going; but other drivers don’t. That’s why Texas rules of the road include using your turn signal when changing lanes or turning. Those little blinking lights are the best way to alert other drivers to your intentions and reduce the risk of lane-change or turning-related accidents.
Adhere to School Bus Stop Signs
A school bus stop sign isn’t a suggestion; you must legally stop like any other stop sign. This traffic law in Texas is necessary to protect children getting on and off the bus and is meant to prevent potential collisions.
No matter which direction you are traveling (behind the bus or in the opposite lane), you must come to a complete stop until the bus driver retracts the stop sign, turns off the flashing lights, and starts moving again.
Move Over for Emergency Vehicles
One of the most significant traffic laws in Texas is the “Move Over or Slow Down” law regarding emergency vehicles. Whether they are pulled over with their lights on or rushing to an incident, you need to get out of the way fast. If you can’t move away from a pulled-over ambulance, fire truck, police car, or construction or maintenance vehicle, you must slow down for your safety and theirs.
Drivers who fail to slow down or move over could face a $200 fine. If a driver injures an emergency responder or maintenance worker, they can be fined up to $2,000.
Right of Way Rules: Always Yield to Pedestrians
Traffic laws in Texas dictate that drivers must yield to pedestrians crossing in marked or unmarked crosswalks. If you are coming up to a crossing and the pedestrian is about to walk, you are expected to stop for them until they have passed safely. Once a pedestrian has cleared all the lanes in the direction you are traveling, you can continue driving.
The Use of Seat Belts
For Texas rules of the road, every person in the vehicle must be wearing a seat belt. Known as the Click It or Ticket law, any person over 16 years of age can receive a ticket fine for not wearing their seat belt. For anyone under 16, the driver gets the ticket instead.
Car and Safety Seats
Child safety traffic laws in Texas are strict to protect our youngest passengers. Any child of eight years or younger must be in an appropriate car seat — rear facing, forward facing, or booster — for their height and weight and be buckled in properly. Once a child is 4 ft. 9 in. tall and can sit with the seat belt correctly positioned across their body, they won’t need a car seat anymore.
If your child is under 7 years old, it is illegal to leave them unattended in your car for more than five minutes unless they are with someone 14 years or older. If it happens, this is a Class C misdemeanor and comes with a $500 fine.
Acceptable Level of Alcohol Consumption
Your blood alcohol concentration must be 0.08 or less to legally operate a vehicle in Texas after you’ve been drinking. The traffic laws in Texas are stringent in this regard, and you will face hefty fines, jail time, and the loss of your license for your first offense, with the severity increasing for subsequent offenses.
Vehicles driving on Texas roads must have two working headlights with white light. You cannot have anything in front of the headlights, including a grill or cover. Traffic laws in Texas also stipulate that you should turn your lights on 30 minutes before sunset and turn them off 30 minutes before sunrise. If you can’t see 1,000 ft. in front of you or traveling in inclement weather, you must have your headlights on.
If you are driving a motorcycle, you must keep your headlight on when you are driving to help maintain your visibility to other drivers.
You cannot ride a bike at night unless you have a white light on the front of the bicycle that is visible at least 500 feet in front of you. You’ll also need red reflector tape or a red light on the back of the bike.
Child Passengers on Motorcycles
You cannot have a child as a passenger on your motorcycle unless they are 5 years or older. In these cases, the child can only ride in a sidecar, not on the motorcycle.
Texting while driving is illegal everywhere in Texas, though certain stipulations and rules vary from city to city.
Some of these laws are as follows:
- You cannot send or receive electronic messages while driving in Texas.
- Drivers with learner’s permits are prohibited from using cell phones in the first six months of driving.
- Using any handheld device in your vehicle in a school zone is illegal.
- Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using handheld devices.
- School bus drivers may not use cell phones while driving if children are present.
Drivers who text behind the wheel are distracted drivers. So, for everyone’s safety, phones should not be used while driving.
Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident in Texas?
If you have been injured in a traffic accident in Texas, the attorneys at Lee, Gober & Reyna are here to help you. We’ll guide you through every step of your personal injury case and fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
Contact our team as soon as possible to get started.