Texas Living

Texas Traffic Laws Revisited

By Jennifer Chappell-Smith 8.1.17

Most Texans probably feel confident about their knowledge of Texas roadways and the laws that govern them. But do you ever wonder if laws have changed? Do you get confused about whether it’s OK to make a hands-free call, just as a police cruiser pulls up to you at a traffic light while you’re mid-sentence? Texas passed a bill in March banning texting while driving, to go into effective Sept. 1, but the full implications of the bill, and how it will be enforced, are still unclear. 

Peruse the Texas Driver Handbook to see if you’re really as familiar as you think with all the rules of the road in the Lone Star State. It’s more than a guidebook for good driving so teens can pass the driver’s license exam; it contains the rules that will prevent you from unwittingly violating a Texas statute. More importantly, it can help keep you and your family safe. If you need to know something specific, you can also take a look at the individual laws in the Texas Transportation Code on FindLaw, which neatly categorizes traffic laws.

In the meantime, here’s a look at a few key statutes that you may or may not know:

Renew that license

Did you know you must renew your license every six years? You only have to show up in person every 12 years, so you can retake the vision test (and the dreaded photo) — but every other time you can just renew online! 

Update your registration sticker and get inspected

Texas roadways are safer because of the required annual inspections of every registered vehicle. The DMV and Texas Department of Public Safety got rid of the two-sticker system; so now, the registration sticker on your windshield means that you’ve registered the vehicle and that it’s passed inspection.

Make sure you have liability insurance

The Texas Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act requires that you have proper coverage in case you cause an accident and harm others and their vehicle ($30,000 for injury or death of one person; $60,000 for injury or death of two people; $25,000 property damage). Check with your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to make sure your policy covers your financial foundation should you be found at fault in a serious accident.

Yield the right-of-way

It can be confusing, but make sure you’re caught up on all the right-of-way situations. 

  • On frontage roads, you must yield to traffic entering the frontage road from the highway or leaving the frontage road to get onto the highway.
  • Always yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles sounding their sirens or flashing lights and pull to the right side of the road, if possible. Did you know that if you see a parked emergency vehicle with lights flashing on the highway, you’re supposed to slow down to 20 miles below the speed limit and get into the left lane so you don’t roar past the parked car?
  • Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in uncontrolled intersections and during the “Walk” signs at crosswalks. If the light changes to green once pedestrians have entered the crosswalk, they still have the right-of-way.

Use your turn signals properly

You should always use your blinker as you’re changing lanes or turning at an intersection. But did you know the law says to use it when you pull away from a parallel parking spot? Remember that signaling doesn’t help the driver behind you unless you do it in advance; the law says to activate the signal 100 feet ahead of time. 

Park in the right spot

People usually remember to avoid parking in front of a fire hydrant, but a look in the manual tells you that you have to be 15 feet away from the hydrant to comply with the rule. Park at least 30 feet from a stop sign or any other traffic control signal on the side of the road. (That means you’re violating the rule if you grab the curb close to a stop sign near your kid’s flag football field on Saturday!) 

Understand the consequences

Traffic violations in Texas show up on your permanent record as points that accumulate over time. As they increase, they may result in higher auto insurance rates, since a pattern of violating rules and laws means you or drivers on your policy may be taking more risks on the road. More serious violations can result in criminal charges, so it’s always worth it to take your responsibilities as a driver seriously.

Driving across the great state of Texas is fun. But make sure you know the traffic rules in the corners of Texas where you’ll travel — even if you’re just heading out to the grocery store.

Road Trip Rules

Some road rules apply nationwide. Before you embark on a cross-country trek, consider:

  • When turning right on red, be sure you’re always looking for turning restrictions at red lights. 
  • U-turns are allowed in most places across Texas, as long as you have clear visibility and no signs prohibit the act — but some cities across the country may have ordinances that prevent them. Think twice before you pull a U.
  • You should never talk and text while driving, but you can check here for a state-by-state guide to texting and cell phone laws. That way, you’re sure to comply wherever you drive.

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