Drivers are supposed to move over and slow down when they see stationary emergency vehicles or tow trucks on the side of the road. Effective September 1, 2013, that law has been expanded to include vehicles of the Texas Department of Transportation.
Transportation Code. The law in question is § 545.157 of the Texas Transportation Code. It sets out what motorists must do when they observe certain workers or situations on the road.
Situations that Trigger the Law. Under the version of § 545.157 that takes effect September 1, drivers must take precautions when they observe:
•· Stationary emergency vehicles with lights flashing;
•· Stationary tow trucks with operating emergency equipment; and
•· TxDOT vehicles (not separated from the roadway by cones or barrels) with lights flashing.
The only difference in the new law is that, now, highway department vehicles are included.
The Precautions Drivers Must Take. According to the law, drivers must take the following precautions:
•· Move over a lane, if the road has two or more lanes;
•· Slow down to 20 miles per hour lower than the speed limit; if the speed limit is 25 miles per hour or less, then slow down to 5 miles per hour.
Penalties. The failure to take proper precautions can expose motorists to hefty penalties.
•· The basic fine is up to $200, like most Class C misdemeanors;
•· The fine extends to $500 if there is any property damage; and
•· The offense becomes a Class B misdemeanor if anyone is hurt; a Class B misdemeanor carries a maximum jail time of 180 days, plus a fine of up to $2,000.
The Legislature has taken this step to enhance the protection to those working on the side of the road. Now, it is up to motorists to follow the law.