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The language for the Safe Passing Ordinance is identical to that of SB 488, which passed in the 2009 Texas legislative session by a unanimous vote in the House, and a vote of 25-5 in the Senate. The bill was then vetoed by Governor Rick Perry.
SB 488 was authored by Senators Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), John Carona (R-Dallas), Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) and Kirk Watson (D-Austin).
The House Companion bill HB 827, was authored by Representatives Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving), Carol Kent (D-Dallas), Eddie Lucio III (D-San Benito, Ellen Cohen (D-Houston), Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), Jessica Farrar (D-Houston), Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) and Armando Walle (D-Houston).
The Safe Passing Bill had the support of AAA, AARP, Texas Motorcycle Rights Association (TMRA), BikeTexas and Texas Towing and Storage Association.
Governor Perry stated in his veto declaration that the bill “contradicts much of the current statute and places the liability and responsibility on the operator of a motor vehicle”; however (1) the Texas Transportation Code already requires vehicles to pass “at a safe distance”, but does not define what that distance is, and (2) the bill does not include a presumption of liability, and provides a defense to prosecution for the motorist if the vulnerable road user was in violation of the law at the time of the incident.
The Safe Passing Ordinance, based on the Safe Passing Bill, protects Texans riding on unprotected farm equipment or horseback, as well as bicyclists, pedestrians and other legal vulnerable road users without impeding traffic.
Although all types of road users are at risk of being injured or killed in a road traffic crash, there are notable differences in fatality rates between different road user groups. In particular, the “vulnerable road users” are at greater risk than vehicle occupants and usually bear the greatest burden of injury. Children, elderly, and disabled people are particular vulnerable, as their physical and mental skills are either not fully developed or they are especially fragile. Children and older people are often overrepresented in traffic fatalities, especially as vulnerable road users.
This standard safe passing distance will help protect vulnerable road users and will be a valuable tool for educational programs and safety awareness campaigns. However, exceptions to the standard passing distance will be allowed to accommodate the reasonable flow of traffic.
1. This Safe Passing Ordinance will establish a standard safe passing distance of 3 ft (or 6 ft for Commercial Vehicles) that only applies when road conditions allow.
2. There is no presumption of liability for the motorist. The Safe Passing Bill has no effect on traditional notions that a person is “innocent until proven guilty”
3. The Ordinance provides a defense to prosecution for the motorist with following language: “It is a defense to prosecution under this section if at the time of the offense the vulnerable road user was acting in violation of the law.”