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1. What protections does this law provide?
This Safe Passing Bill will establish a standard safe passing distance of 3 ft (or 6 ft for Commercial Vehicles) that only applies when road conditions allow. It also includes penalties for the “right hook” (turning dangerously in front of a vulnerable road user) and failing to yield when making a left turn at an intersection.
2. What are the penalties for violating this law?
SB 488 establishes a violation of this law as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500 if the violation results in property damage or a Class B misdemeanor if the violation results in bodily injury, and establishes the breaking of traffic laws by a bicyclist, or other vulnerable road user, as a defense to prosecution.
3. Why do we need this law?
Approximately 50 cyclists, 400 pedestrians and 500 motorcyclists are killed every year in Texas. Many of those fatalities could be prevented if this law were enacted.
4. Who are “vulnerable road users”?
“Vulnerable road users” include a pedestrian, runner, physically disabled person, child, skater, construction and maintenance worker, stranded motorist, equestrian, and person operating a bicycle, motorcycle, or unprotected farm equipment.
The group of vulnerable road users can be subdivided in a number of ways such as the amount of protection in traffic (e.g. pedestrians and cyclists) and the amount of task capability (e.g. the young and the elderly).
5. Why do vulnerable road users require additional protection?
Vulnerable road users are allowed to use the roadway by law in Texas, but vulnerable road users do not have the same (armor) protection as motorists.
6. How are the safety distances determined? Why 3 feet for cars and 6 feet for commercial/large trucks?
The safety distances are consistent with existing safe driving practices. Currently the Commercial Driver’s handbook recommends commercial vehicles allow six feet because of the wind effect of a tractor trailer that can suck a cyclist three feet closer.
7. What do other states do?
18 states have a law protecting vulnerable road users and requiring 3ft passing clearance.
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
8. Is there a presumption of liability?
No. The Safe Passing Bill has no effect on traditional notions that a person is “innocent until proven guilty”.
9. Can a motorist pass a vulnerable road user in a no passing zone?
First, the Safe Passing Bill will establish a standard safe passing distance of 3 ft (or 6 ft for Commercial Vehicles) that only applies when road conditions allow. If road conditions do not allow, the Safe Passing Bill has no affect on passing in no passing zones. Second, current Texas law provides that a cyclist moving slower than traffic shall ride as near as practicable to the right edge of the road way and that a cyclist may not obstruct the normal flow of traffic.
Current Texas law does not provide an exception to allow passing in a no passing zone. A motorist must wait until the no passing zone ends to pass another road user, including a tractor, cyclist, or other slower moving legal road users.
SB 488 does not change current Texas law related to passing in a no passing zone. Current Texas law concerning safe passing requires a “safe passing distance” and provides no exception to allow passing in a no passing zone. SB 488 defines “safe passing distance” as 3 ft.