Watch Out Memorial Day Weekend Drivers! Texas Police Abuse a Little-Known Traffic Law to Trap Motorists

It is Memorial Day weekend.  You are going to the lake or to visit family or friends. You are not a novice driver.  You have been around for quite a while and you know the traffic laws. You try to avoid traffic tickets by staying close to the limits of speed and safety.

You also know that some towns along multi-lane highways are known as “speed traps.”  The usual speed limit is 60 – 70 MPH; the speed limit drops by 10 – 15 MPH at the city limits.  The local police sit there and write ticket after ticket when motorists miss the sign.  Most drivers know this; radar guns only snare the unwary.

But what about this sneaky trick:  Ticket drivers going at or below the posted limit, who do not know the specifics of one Texas law.

  • You are driving on a tollway with a posted speed limit of 80 miles per hour;
  • Up ahead, you see a police car pulled completely off the side of the highway;
  • You notice there is no accident or car pulled over;
  • You wonder why they have all their lights flashing;
  • You slow down to the speed limit or below as you pass the police car;
  • Suddenly the police car pulls out behind you and makes you pull over.
  • You get a $100+ ticket for a traffic law you never knew about.

I never knew the specifics of this law, but I intuitively moved over to the next lane when passing a police traffic stop, accident, or other mishap, and slowed to the speed limit when I was going faster.

The trap is when you STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE.  That’s right, the rules for passing an authorized emergency vehicle with lights flashing require you to move to the next lane to the left, or slow to 20 MPH below the posted speed.

I have no problem with this law where and accident or traffic stop is in progress.  My problem is when there is no reason for the vehicle to be stopped there except to fine motorists.

Why would a police car be parked, flashing lights on, beside the road, with a radar gun pointed out the window?  If this were incidental, don’t you think the officer would issue a warning to an unsuspecting driver going the speed limit or slightly below?  The real reason appears to be money.

To me this is a scurrilous abuse of power.  Until or unless this is remedied, do not fall into the trap.

FYI:  Texas Transportation Code § 545.157.

(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 vehicle when driving on a highway with two or more lanes traveling in the direction of the 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.

(e) In this section:

(1) “Tow truck” means a vehicle that:

(A) has been issued a permit under Subchapter C, Chapter 2308, Occupations Code; and

(B) is operated by a person licensed under Subchapter D, Chapter 2308, Occupations Code.

(2) “Traffic control channelizing device” means equipment used to warn and alert drivers of conditions created by work activities in or near the traveled way, to protect workers in a temporary traffic control zone, and to guide drivers and pedestrians safely.  The term includes a traffic cone, tubular marker, vertical panel, drum, barricade, temporary raised island, concrete or cable barrier, guardrail, or channelizer.