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Texas Highway Laws – What To Know After A Highway Accident

Houston car accident lawyers explain how state laws impact accident claims

Some of the most dangerous highways in the country can be found in Texas. According to one traffic safety study conducted by Value Penguin, four of the 25 most dangerous highways in the country are located in Texas: I-10, I-20, I-35, and I-45 – the most dangerous stretch of which is here in Harris County.

This is why it’s important for Texas drivers to understand the rules and regulations governing the state’s highways – and how those rules could affect an injury claim.

Texas highway accident statistics

Car accidents in Texas often occur on the state’s busy highways and interstates. Last year, 2,573 people died in accidents that occurred on interstates and highways in Texas, according to 2021 motor vehicle accident statistics compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation (TDOT). That’s 57.1 percent of all motor vehicle accident deaths in Texas in 2021.

Many of those highway and interstate fatalities occurred in large, populated areas like Harris County, where Houston is located. In 2021, 198 fatalities occurred on highways in Harris County, including 105 fatalities on state and federal highways and 93 fatalities on interstates.

Why do highway accidents happen in Texas?

Motor vehicle accidents on highways in Texas occur for many different reasons. Some of the most common causes of collisions on Texas highways include:

  • Speeding drivers who don’t have time to slow down and avoid a collision.
  • Distracted drivers, especially texting drivers, even though texting while driving is illegal in Texas.
  • Aggressive drivers who tailgate or weave in and out of traffic, often at high speed.
  • Tired drivers who fall asleep at the wheel and crash into other cars on the highway.
  • Drunk drivers or drivers under the influence of drugs who cause collisions.

Texas highway speed limits

The Texas Transportation Commission sets speed limits for different highways in the state. In general, the standard maximum highway speed limit in Texas is 70 mph. However, the commission can set a higher speed limit “if the highway is designed to accommodate that speed on the highway system if that speed is determined to be safe and reasonable after a traffic or engineering study,” according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Many highways in Texas have a maximum speed limit of 75 mph. Some Texas highways have a maximum speed limit of 85 mph, including a 40-mile-long stretch of Texas 130 from Austin to Seguin.

Right of way when entering or leaving a highway

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety's handbook, vehicles entering a multi-lane highway in Texas from the right with traffic moving in the same direction must yield to traffic from the left.

When leaving a multi-lane highway in Texas, vehicles exiting the highway must yield to other vehicles in other lanes. In other words, you cannot change lanes without warning. If another driver is already in another lane, that driver has the right of way.

Texas road construction rules and regulations

Driving in construction zones can be dangerous, especially on highways. According to the state’s public safety handbook, when approaching any “channeling device” (term used to describe barricades, traffic cones, and other devices used to alert drivers to a road work zone), drivers should be prepared to do the following:

  • Slow down and prepare to change lanes if necessary.
  • Maintain the posted speed limit in the construction zone.
  • Obey all posted traffic signs and speed limit signs in road work zones. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to $2,000 depending on the violation.

Sharing the road with trucks

Tractor-trailers and other large commercial trucks often use highways in Texas. This is why the state recommends taking certain steps in order to avoid an accident with a large truck. Such steps include:

  • When passing a truck, only do so when the passing lane “is clear and you are in a legal passing zone,” according to the Texas Department of Public Safety's handbook.
  • Give yourself extra time when passing a large truck. On average, “it takes three to five seconds longer to pass a truck than a car.”
  • When following a tractor-trailer or another large truck, “stay out of its blind spot at the rear.”

Sharing the road with motorcycles

Accidents involving motorcycles often occur on highways as well. In fact, motorcyclists are 35 times more likely to die in an accident than occupants in a car, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety's handbook. This is why Texas has several recommendations for sharing the road with motorcyclists. Such safety tips include:

  • Look out for motorcyclists, especially when making a left turn or changing lanes on a highway.
  • Always use turn signals before changing lanes. That way, motorcyclists will know that you are planning to change lanes and can be better prepared.
  • Give motorcyclists plenty of room on the highway. In particular, don’t try to share a lane with a motorcyclist. Give them a full lane width the same way you would with a passenger vehicle or truck.

What to do after a highway accident in Texas

If you or a loved one has been involved in a collision on an interstate or highway in Texas, it’s critical that you take certain steps right away to protect your health and your rights, including:

  • Call 911 and tell the dispatcher you have been in an accident. If your accident occurred on an interstate or highway, a state trooper from the Texas Highway Patrol will likely respond to your collision.
  • If it is safe to do so, take photos of your collision before moving your vehicle.
  • If your vehicle is still in the road and could be hit a second time by other vehicles, try to drive your vehicle off the road if possible to avoid a second collision. If it’s safe to leave the car where it is, though, then don’t move it.
  • If someone saw your accident, get their full name and phone number. That way, investigators can interview them later. Statements from eyewitnesses can be powerful pieces of evidence in support of your car accident injury claim.
  • If it is safe to do so, get the other driver’s information. This includes the other driver’s name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, and insurance information. If it is not safe to do so, wait in your vehicle or someplace safe until police arrive. You can get the other driver’s information from the investigating police officer or state trooper.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible after your accident.
  • If you have already been examined by an EMT or another medical professional after your accident, schedule a follow-up appointment with a doctor. Many car accident injuries have delayed symptoms, including whiplash and concussions.
  • Call a Texas car accident attorney as soon as possible after your highway accident.

How a highway accident lawyer can help

You might think you don’t need an attorney if another driver clearly caused your Texas highway accident. But the reality is many highway collisions turn into complicated legal cases. Sometimes, it’s because the other driver denies doing anything wrong. Other times, it’s because the at-fault driver’s insurance company makes a lowball settlement offer or rejects your injury claim.

Whatever the circumstances, an experienced Texas highway accident attorney can work with you to build a strong legal case. In settlement negotiations and, if necessary, at trial, your lawyer can help you every step of the way.

Learn more about your legal rights. Contact our Houston law firm and discover what we can do for you. A dedicated Houston highway accident lawyer at Smith & Hassler, Attorneys at Law can meet with you and explain your legal options. We know what to do because our legal team has years of experience handling such complex cases in Harris County and throughout Texas. Schedule a free case evaluation with a Houston car accident attorney you can count on in a crisis.

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