Texas’ highways and freeways are some of the busiest in the United States. They see thousands of daily commuters, sightseers, and 18-wheelers every day. Although merging lanes and entering highways are skills drivers learn upon receiving a driver’s license, the rules and realities of this skill can be much different on hectic roadways. Learning the laws in regard to merging traffic can keep you safe and out of legal trouble during future travel in the Lone Star State.
Right-of-Way During Traffic Merges on Freeways
Section 545.061 of the Texas Transportation Code states that a driver must yield to traffic on his/her left when entering a lane from the right, on a roadway divided into three or more lanes for one-way traffic. Put simply, this means drivers entering a Texas highway or freeway must legally yield to vehicles already driving. This is the common sense solution – otherwise, the vehicle entering the highway would collide with moving traffic or force traffic to come to a halt, creating a dangerous roadblock.
If drivers yield the right-of-way to vehicles entering the highway, this is courtesy and not a legal requirement. Drivers may yield to avoid an unnecessary collision, but it is the merging driver’s duty to slow or come to a stop until it is safe to merge onto the highway. This statute also applies to vehicles changing lanes on the freeway. The vehicle doing the merging must yield to vehicles already driving in the lane.
During a lane change on the freeway, it is only legally acceptable to pass slower moving drivers on the left-hand side. The vehicle doing the passing must move to the lane on his or her left, safely accelerate past the driver, and then return to the previous lane. This keeps slower moving vehicles in the right and middle lanes, and faster moving vehicles in the left-most lanes. Driving slowly in the left lane or fast in the right lane can cause collisions.
Tips to Avoid Collisions on Texas’ Freeways
When in doubt, yield the right of way to the driver trying to merge. It is never a good idea to force another driver to wait if it will create a dangerous circumstance, especially if you can yield and avoid the entire situation. Although drivers on the freeway legally have the right of way over merging vehicles, some drivers ignore this rule. You may encounter a driver that refuses to yield the right of way while merging, forcing his or her way in between vehicles on the highway. If possible, switch lanes to avoid vehicles that are merging.
If you are the driver merging onto the freeway, optimize your speed to avoid disrupting the flow of traffic. The vehicles on the freeway are already moving at a certain pace – possibly up to the speed limit of 70 to 75 miles per hour. Merging vehicles should do their best to match the speed of highway drivers, accelerating immediately upon entering the freeway ramp. Merging drivers must do their best to control their speed as to not confuse other drivers, cause an accident, or cause an unnecessary slowdown.
You may drive on the shoulder of the highway while trying to merge onto a freeway if necessary. Section 545.058 of the Texas Transportation Code states that a driver may enter the shoulder of a road while merging into traffic. The driver may accelerate along the shoulder until he or she meets a sufficient speed to safely merge. Always choose the shoulder instead of cutting off a driver on the freeway. Practice defensive driving at all times on the highway. Assume other drivers do not know the law, and always yield the right of way to avoid a collision.
If you were recently involved in a vehicle collision due to someone merging incorrectly, speak to a Houston car accident lawyer now. Our initial consultations are always free!