Texas Cracking Down on Passing Police Cars

by Terry Bryant

If you’re a driver in Texas, you’ll want to know that Texas State Troopers are stepping up enforcement of the state’s Move Over/Slow Down law. Enacted in 2003, the law requires drivers to change lanes or slow down when passing police cars that are pulled over on the side of the road with their emergency lights activated. The same goes for fire, EMS, tow trucks, and Texas Department of Transportation vehicles.

The law says that:

  • Drivers must move out of the lane closest to the side of the road where the vehicle is stopped when there is more than one lane going in the same direction and if it is safe to do so.
  • If they can’t move over or there is only one lane traveling in each direction, they must slow down to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. For example, if the posted speed limit is 45, drivers must slow down to 25.
  • If the posted speed limit is 25 mph or lower, drivers must slow to 5 mph.

Drivers who violate the law face serious consequences. They can be fined up to $200. Drivers who violate the law and cause property damage face fines of $500. Violators who strike someone may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which can carry a fine as high as $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.

Last year, there were more than 41,000 warnings and citations issued to violators, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Designed to Protect Police, Fire, and Other Workers

The common-sense law is intended to increase safety by providing a buffer zone to protect police, emergency responders, and workers from being struck by passing vehicles. Move-over laws evolved in the country in direct response to the increasing numbers of police, emergency personnel and others who were being struck and injured or killed by motorists on the nation’s roadways. Every state in the country has some form of move-over law.

When the law was first enacted in Texas, it applied only to police, fire and emergency vehicles. In 2011, tow trucks were added to the law. In 2013, it was again amended to include TxDOT vehicles with activated lights. More than 100 TxDOT employees working in construction areas on state roadways have been hit and killed by motorists since 1938, according to the agency.

Look Out for All Vehicles Stopped on Sides of Roads

So, to avoid a fine (or worse, injuring or killing someone), take the law seriously by moving over or slowing down when passing police or other vehicles stopped on the road with lights flashing. And if you see any other vehicles stopped on the side of the road, move over or slow down for them, too. Drivers or passengers of these vehicles may exit their vehicles to change flat tires or otherwise examine their stalled vehicles, and they also need plenty of space to stay safe.