“Drive Friendly” is a slogan used by the Texas Highway Department. You see it on the back of folded weather warning signs along Texas Highways. You have probably heard it. Years ago, there was even a series of public service ads on television urging Texas drivers to Drive Friendly. Most people in Texas are just naturally friendly and it is usually reflected in their driving habits. (At least, once you get away from the big city.) But, there are some drivers who do not understand that Texas driving laws are also geared to allow people to Drive Friendly.
Here is a classic example: I have a friend, (okay, I like to think I have more than one friend), that is always friendly and cheerful. But I overheard him talking about an incident on the highway between Bandera and Kerrville, and it made me realize that many people do not understand some simple traffic laws. My friend said, “I was driving to Kerrville yesterday with my pickup truck loaded and I was pulling a trailer. Traffic was backed up behind me, but I’m not going to get a ticket for driving on the shoulder of the road just because somebody is in a hurry.” What my friend didn’t know was that he could have gotten a ticket for NOT driving on the shoulder of the road. It is called “impeding traffic” when you obstruct the normal flow of traffic without allowing others to pass.
So, is it a “damned if you do, or damned if you don’t” situation for my friend? Either a ticket for driving on the shoulder, or a ticket for impeding traffic? Not at all. In Texas, it is perfectly legal to drive on the shoulder of the road to allow faster moving vehicles to pass, and in fact you are required to do so if you are holding up traffic.
This is the applicable section from the Texas Transportation Code:
§ 545.058. DRIVING ON IMPROVED SHOULDER. (a) An operator may drive on an improved shoulder to the right of the main traveled portion of a roadway if that operation is necessary and may be done safely, but only:
(1) to stop, stand, or park;
(2) to accelerate before entering the main traveled lane of traffic;
(3) to decelerate before making a right turn;
(4) to pass another vehicle that is slowing or stopped on the main traveled portion of the highway, disabled, or preparing to make a left turn;
(5) to allow another vehicle traveling faster to pass;
(6) as permitted or required by an official traffic-control device; or
(7) to avoid a collision.
Now, with all that said, there are other important things that should be noted about this section of the transportation code: “but only” means that you can’t drive on the shoulder just because you feel like it, there must one of the listed reasons for doing so. And, “may be done safely” is the most important limitation. If you pull over and drive on the shoulder of the road, even for a listed valid reason, and your driving there causes you to hit somebody or something sitting on the shoulder of the road, you are at fault. It must be done safely. Hey, Texas is a friendly place and we all want to keep it that way. I can understand someone wanting to drive slowly through our beautiful hill country to fully appreciate the natural beauty, but let’s all drive friendly and show others the courtesy of letting them pass if they seem to be in a hurry. (Jerry can be reached at the contact information in the ad in this magazine.)