The Truth About Driving In The Suicide Lane in Texas
Quick question: what do you call that center turning lane on a road?
I've heard 'the chicken lane' but yesterday was the first time I saw the term 'the suicide lane' used. I had to do a double take at first.
"Sui-what??" I believe was my exact response.
But a Google here and Google there shows that it is indeed a commonly used phrase. It gained the nickname because that center lane, which you can spot by its solid yellow lines on most busy streets in town, can be used to enter traffic from either direction--a quite dangerous act if you don't liberally use your indicators.
Now, here's the hot debate that introduced me to the term 'suicide lane' in the first place:
Can You Legally Use The Suicide Lane To Pass Cars?
So, does Texas law permit you to use the center lane for passing other cars?
Texas code under 545.60 Driving On Roadway Laned For Traffic dictates that a on three-lane roadway with two-way traffic, you cannot use the center lane unless you are
- Passing another vehicle and the center lane is clear of traffic within a safe distance;
- Preparing to make a left turn.
You can see the full statute here.
What About When There's More Than Three Lanes?
Excellent question, and that's when using that center lane gets tricky. The code is written in a way that only refers to roads with three lanes and doesn't seem to cover the case where it has four or more and one of them is a center turn lane.
One thing for sure is that if there's a passing lane, then the proclaimed "suicide lanes" can't be used for passing.
Then you've got the section 545.051 Driving On Right Side of the Roadway, which dictates that drivers must drive on the right side unless passing with the exception of
- As directed by an official traffic-control device (like those giant flashing signs telling you to move over)
- Moving out of the way of an obstruction that is a hazard, or
- Making a left turn into or out of an alley, private road or driveway.
Does your head hurt yet? Bear with me. We're about to get to the point.
The Bottom Line To Using The Suicide Lane
Don't do it, folks.
After I went cross-eyed reading the Transportation Code and ended up having to take a few excedrin for the resulting headache, I headed to the tried and true Texas Drivers' Handbook. And boom. Right there in clear non-legalese:
There you have it. Don't drive down the middle, folks.
There's Actually No More Suicide Lanes in Texas, Anyway
Yep. Towards the end of digging around on this issue, I found an oddly fascinating site on all things traffic law, The Texas Highway Man. And this is what it had to say about the so-called suicide lanes:
Section (b)(1) really is an artifact from days long ago where so-called "suicide lanes" were used on rural roads to allow passing in either direction; fortunately, those lanes are pretty much all gone now and have been replaced by dedicated passing lanes for one direction or the other.
Sometimes, common sense is exactly what you should feel safe using. Common sense tells you "I shouldn't drive down that center lane", then you find yourself knee deep in Texas Transportation Code theorizing all kinds of loop holes and the chaos you could theoretically cause.....before coming to a final answer that was your original assumption in the first place.
Have a great day, folks.