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Safe Passing Ordinance Analysis
1. The Safe Passing Ordinance establishes the general 3ft and 6ft safe passing distance that will save lives and be a valuable tool for education programs and safety awareness campaigns. However, the Ordinance also establishes exceptions to the general 3ft and 6ft safe passing distances based on road conditions. These exceptions ensure the normal flow of traffic and provide that the motorist will be able to pass a vulnerable road user at a safe distance when road conditions do not provide for 3ft and 6ft of clearance when passing. The Ordinance establishes the general 3ft and 6ft safe passing distance while protecting motorists from unreasonable passing restrictions based on road conditions.
Adding the conditional language “when road conditions allow” provides numerous exceptions to the general 3ft and 6ft safe passing distances, including exceptions when road width is inadequate.
(c) For the purposes of Subsection (b)(2), when road conditions allow, safe distance is at least:
(1) three feet if the operator’s vehicle is a passenger car or light truck; or
(2) six feet if the operator’s vehicle is a truck other than a light truck or a commercial motor vehicle as defined by Section 522.003 (of the Texas Transportation Code). (emphasis added)
2. Finally, the Safe Passing Ordinance provides a broad defense to a motorist if the vulnerable road user is acting in violation of the law when the incident occurs. For example, 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. If a cyclist fails to obey these laws, he is acting in violation of current Texas law; thus, the motorist will have a defense to prosecution.