Brian White | July 18, 2023 | Texas Laws
If you’ve ever driven on Texas highways, you’ve surely seen signs reading “Left Lane for Passing Only.” These signs are a regular fixture on Texas highways. But does that mean you can never pass on the right, or are there exceptions to this rule?
Left-Lane Passing Is the Law
While many people think of the left lane as the high-speed lane, that isn’t actually the case. As the Texas Department of Transportation explains in its tips for highway driving, once you pass someone in the left lane, you should return to the lane you started in.
This is more than just a suggestion — if you impede the flow of traffic by driving in the left lane, you could be fined up to $200, which would certainly ruin an otherwise nice day.
Furthermore, the same law dictating that the left lane is for passing also forbids passing in the right lane. This doesn’t make much difference on two-lane highways, but it can matter on larger highways.
In other words, when you’re driving on a three-lane or wider highway, you shouldn’t pass people in the middle lane on the right.
If it makes you feel any better, Texas passing laws are almost identical to those in most other states.
Every Rule Has an Exception
While you’re typically only permitted to pass on the left, Texas law does allow drivers to pass on the right in specific circumstances.
For example, you may be allowed to pass on the right if you’re driving on a highway with at least two unobstructed lanes or a one-way street with enough room for two cars to travel side-by-side. However, you can only do so if the vehicle you’re passing is turning or about to turn left.
Furthermore, you may not leave the main portion of the road to pass. That means you can’t pass on the shoulder, on a sidewalk, or in a lane designated for other purposes.
Why Do These Lane-Passing Rules Exist?
Like most driving regulations, the rule saying you can only pass on the left exists to prevent avoidable crashes and improve driver safety.
The right lane is often extremely busy on Texas highways, as nearly every exit and entrance ramp feeds into this lane.
If the law required people to drive in the left lane and pass on the right, drivers entering the highway would have to move over to the left lane quickly, and drivers who wanted to change routes would similarly have to switch lanes before exiting.
This constant flow in and out of the right lane due to exits and entrances would become more hectic if it were also a passing lane. Vehicles would be entering the lane from both sides incessantly, which would increase the likelihood of car accidents.
As it is, the current regulations create smoother, more secure transitions. Cars typically travel at lower speeds in the right lane, making it safer for other vehicles to merge onto the highway. And the left lane has less traffic, allowing drivers to safely move over when passing or creating room for someone else to enter the highway.
Following Passing Laws Keeps You Safe and Avoids Tickets
While they may force you to drive a little slower than you want, Texas passing laws make highway driving safer for everyone. If you want to avoid accidents and expensive tickets, you should make it a point to follow these laws and only pass on the left except in rare situations.
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