Driving on the Shoulder in Texas
When you’re driving safely along at a normal speed, to suddenly be passed on the right by a car swerving onto the shoulder to go around your vehicle can be extremely annoying. And yes, it’s basically illegal. However, there are lots of loopholes for driving on the shoulder that are considered safe: the Texas Transportation Code (§545.058) prohibits drivers from driving on the shoulder unless it is “necessary and done safely.” The law defines when it is legal to drive on an improved shoulder (defined by the Transportation Code as a “paved shoulder”) as follows:
(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.
(b) An operator may drive on an improved shoulder to the left of the main traveled portion of a divided or limited-access or controlled-access highway if that operation may be done safely, but only:
(1) to slow or stop when the vehicle is disabled and traffic or other circumstances prohibit the safe movement of the vehicle to the shoulder to the right of the main traveled portion of the roadway;
(2) as permitted or required by an official traffic-control device; or
(3) to avoid a collision.
(c) A limitation in this section on driving on an improved shoulder does not apply to:
(1) an authorized emergency vehicle responding to a call;
(2) a police patrol; or
(3) a bicycle.
However, in the words of a driving school blog, “Hauling down the shoulder at high speeds because you feel entitled to greater privileges than the rest of the drivers on the road is neither legitimate, legal, nor safe. …just about every time I’ve seen someone drive on [the shoulder], it’s never for any legitimate or legal reason, and it’s especially never at a safe speed. It’s usually just out of impatience due to severe traffic.”
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