What are the rules of passing another vehicle?

Any time you make traffic maneuvers such as changing lanes or passing other vehicles, you are creating a risk for yourself and others on the road. So, unless it is needed, avoid making unnecessary traffic maneuvers such as continuously changing lanes or passing other vehicles.

If you are approaching a vehicle in front of you that drives noticeably slower than the flow of traffic and speed limit, this situation can cause you a risk, and you realized that it is safe to pass the slow-moving vehicle, then it makes sense to pass that vehicle.

Never drive faster than the flow of traffic, or over the speed limit, or at a speed that is unsafe for the current traffic, weather or road condition in order to pass other vehicles.

When it is needed to pass other vehicles, the law requires you to only pass other vehicles on the left (using the left lane).  Avoid passing other vehicles using the right lane unless it is absolutely necessary to avoid a traffic hazard and when it is safe.

When passing a motorcyclist, remember to give him/her the same full lane width as other vehicles. Never drive in the same lane with a motorcyclist, even if the lane is wide enough to fit your vehicle and the motorcyclist.

You are required by law to signal at least 100 feet before changing lane.  Never pass a vehicle that has stopped for a pedestrian to cross.

Passing on a Two-lane Roadway Passing on a two-lane roadway can be dangerous. You must be fully capable of making several critical traffic maneuvering decisions in a few seconds that are safe and successful.

When you are ready to pass another vehicle on a two-lane roadway, you must consider these questions:

  • Based on the road marking and sign, is it legal to pass?
  • Based on the current traffic situation and/or road and weather condition, is it safe to pass the other vehicles?
  • Is there oncoming traffic and if yes, how fast is it approaching your vehicle and how soon will it reach your vehicle.
  • Do you have enough time to safely get around the vehicle in front of you without the risk of a head-on collision with oncoming traffic?
  • How fast do you need to go and is it possible and safe to go that fast in order to pass the vehicle in front of you safely?  You have a few seconds to analyze the current situation and plan and strategize to safely pass the vehicle in front of you.

Passing is illegal when:

  • The center line is a double solid yellow line or there is a solid yellow line on your side.
  • There is a DO NOT PASS sign on the roadway.
  • A vehicle that is already going close to, or above the road's speed limit; this is because when you pass that vehicle that speed, you must go at least 10-15 miles per hour over the speed limit, which is illegal.
  • You do not have enough time to pass the vehicle in front of you and safely return to your lane before reaching a solid yellow line or double solid yellow lines.
  • You do not have enough time to pass the vehicle in front of you and safely return to your lane before confronting oncoming traffic within 200 feet of your vehicle.
  • You are approaching a curve or top of the hill and are unable to see oncoming traffic from enough distance to assess if they may reach you during the passing maneuver, and/or you are also not able to see around the vehicle that you are passing.
  • You are within 100 feet of a bridge or railroad crossing.
  • You are behind a school bus that is loading or unloading children.

It is also extremely dangerous to pass when:

  • You would need to pass a long line of vehicles.
  • The vehicle ahead of you is going to stop or turn.
  • Traffic is too close for you to pass safely.
  • You are nearing a No Passing Zone.
  • The vehicle you wish to pass is already driving at or near the speed limit.
  • You would be passing a vehicle on grades.

When passing other vehicles in a two-lane roadway:

  1. Make sure that there are not any of the above situations, which will limit your ability to pass.
  2. Make sure that the passing lane is clear and there is no oncoming traffic that makes your turn unsafe.  It is hard to judge the speed and distance of oncoming vehicles, especially the large vehicles, so proceed carefully.
  3. Check your mirrors and look over your left shoulder to make sure that there are no cars trying to pass you.
  4. Turn on your left signal.
  5. Move to the left lane for passing.
  6. Speed up by about 10-15 mph over the speed of the vehicle that you are passing.
  7. After you pass the vehicle in front of you, look over your right shoulder and make sure that it is clear and you have enough space to return to your lane and then safely return to your lane.

What should I do if another vehicle is passing me?

  • If another vehicle is passing you, slow down a bit and let the other vehicle pass you safely.
  • Never speed up when a vehicle is trying to pass you; this is not a friendly and thoughtful way of sharing the road and, most importantly, it is very dangerous in a two-lane road to speed up when another vehicle is passing you.