What Are Texas’ Passing Laws?

What Are Texas’ Passing Laws?Texas has a series of laws regulating passing on the state’s roadways. While some may find these laws reasonable and others view them as overly restrictive, they are there to promote the safe and efficient flow of traffic while minimizing the risk of accidents and injuries. Here are answers to some common questions about passing in Texas:

Are drivers required to use the left lane only for passing?

On multi-lane highways, signs that say, “Left lane for passing only” identify a pass-only lane, meaning drivers use the left lane only for passing. However, passing does not mean driving in the left lane forever. After you pass a vehicle, you are required to “return to the original lane of travel” once you’ve safely cleared the vehicle. Drivers who continuously stay in the left lane and keep passing multiple vehicles very often are traveling above the speed limit and are at risk for being ticketed for speeding.

Driving too slowly in the left lane can also have negative consequences for everyone on the road and can result in crashes. Those who engage in slowpoke driving or “left-lane camping,” impede the natural flow of traffic and prevent faster drivers from passing those traveling slower. In Texas, impeding the flow of traffic in the left lane is punishable by a fine of up to $200.

Can you ever pass on the right?

There are a few circumstances under which you can legally pass on the right in Texas. You should only pass when the conditions are safe to do so – make sure that you have room to merge into the next lane and use your turn signal. Drivers may pass on the right in Texas if:

  • The vehicle they are passing is signaling to or is making a left turn
  • The driver is on a roadway with two or more lanes and sufficient room to pass
  • The roadway is free of obstructions, such as parked vehicles
  • The road is a one-way street

Drivers are not permitted to pass on the right if doing so would cause them to leave the designated roadway (drive on the shoulder).

What does it mean to maintain a safe distance when passing?

When passing another vehicle, a driver must return to their authorized lane of travel as soon as practical or before coming within 200 feet of an approaching vehicle (if a lane sanctioned for vehicles approaching from the opposite direction is used in passing).

Is that a law that applies to passing emergency vehicles?

Yes. Under Texas Transportation Code, drivers must move over or slow down when passing emergency or utility vehicles. The law also requires drivers to vacate the lane closest to a stopped emergency or utility vehicle. On single-lane roadways, drivers must slow down to 20 miles per hour below the speed limit when passing these particular vehicles. The law initially passed in 2003 specified only emergency vehicles, but several years ago was changed to include utility vehicles after numerous fatalities involving Texas utility workers on roadsides had occurred. Violators could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Can you cut around trucks?

Due to blind spots on the sides and rear of large trucks, truck drivers cannot see your vehicle when you are on the immediate right side of their truck. If you try to turn right or pass on the right, you are putting yourself at risk. Many serious truck accidents happen when truckers attempt to turn large trucks to the right, driving over the top of cars they didn’t know were there.

Can you pass school buses?

In 2021, Texas had the most school bus related deaths in the nation (12), and since that time, the state has extremely strict laws about passing school buses. According to Texas Transportation Code Section 545.066, drivers must come to a full stop when a school bus has its lights on or stop sign extended. They can only resume driving when:

  • The bus starts moving.
  • The visual signals are turned off.
  • The school bus driver manually signals the driver to proceed.

All drivers on an undivided road must follow the law. It doesn’t matter what direction you’re driving or the number of lanes between you and the school bus—you still need to stop.

However, if you’re traveling on a separate roadway (across the divided highway), you don’t need to stop.

Passing a school bus in Texas is a misdemeanor. Violators must pay hefty fines:

  • First offense: $500 to $1,250
  • Second (and subsequent) offenses: $1,000 to $2,000

Additionally, drivers cannot fight the ticket they get for passing a school bus. The court can also suspend the license of any driver caught passing a school bus more than once. Drivers who injure others while passing a school bus may be charged with a class A misdemeanor and face up to one year in jail.

If you’ve been involved in a car accident that involved illegal passing, don’t wait to take action. The right legal representation can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. At the Law Offices of Pat Maloney, we understand the toll that an accident can take on you and your family, and we’re here to help. Call our experienced San Antonio car accident lawyer or fill out our contact form to set up your free initial consultation today.