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View Full Version : It's illegal to pass on the right? Really? Where?


Johanna
06-15-2003, 01:34 AM
There are frequent discussions around here about moving out of the left lane to let someone past.

Sooner or later, someone comes along and says it's bad to pass on the right. :dubious: (Why?)

Sometimes people even assert that it's illegal to pass on the right. There's one example in this thread (http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/showthread.php?postid=2691025#2691025)It is illegal (I believe) in most states to pass on the right.Now I'm skeptical.

Can anyone prove or disprove this statement? Is passing on the right actually illegal anywhere?

Ice Wolf
06-15-2003, 01:50 AM
On two-lane roads here. (http://ci.davidson.nc.us/eventdetail.asp?scheduleitemid=510)

It's a moving violation here. (http://leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullchapter.cfm?Title=23&Chapter=025)

Some comment and history here. (http://cartalk.cars.com/Poll/Archive/poll-results-09142001.html)


For most of 100 or so years that automobiles have been around, it has been illegal to pass on the right except under very rare circumstances. If someone in the left lane was getting ready to take a left turn, it was OK to pas on the right. But that was pretty much it. It was always a definite no-no on the highway!

But about 25 or 30 years ago, the law changed. (We never did get a definitive answer to, "When and why did it happen?"

zoltar7
06-15-2003, 03:43 AM
It doesn't appear to be illegal in Washington state. RCW 46.61.100 (http://search.leg.wa.gov/pub/textsearch/ViewRoot.asp?Action=Html&Item=0&X=614234818&p=1) describes how motorists are supposed to use multi-lane highways:
...
(2) Upon all roadways having two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction, all vehicles shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, except (a) when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, (b) when traveling at a speed greater than the traffic flow, (c) when moving left to allow traffic to merge, or (d) when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, exit, or into a private road or driveway when such left turn is legally permitted. On any such roadway, a vehicle or combination over ten thousand pounds shall be driven only in the right-hand lane except under the conditions enumerated in (a) through (d) of this subsection.
...
(4) It is a traffic infraction to drive continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway when it impedes the flow of other traffic.
...
Legislative intent -- 1986 c 93: "It is the intent of the legislature, in this 1985 [1986] amendment of RCW 46.61.100, that the left-hand lane on any state highway with two or more lanes in the same direction be used primarily as a passing lane." [1986 c 93 § 1.]

But RCW 46.61.115 (http://search.leg.wa.gov/pub/textsearch/ViewRoot.asp?Action=Html&Item=2&X=614234551&p=1) states:
(1) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:
(a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn;
(b) Upon a roadway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of vehicles moving lawfully in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle.
...

So RCW 46.61.115 1(b) seems to allow passing on the right on a roadways having two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction, while 46.61.100 seems to indicate that the motorist impeding the flow of traffic and forcing another driver to pass on the right should be cited.

Illegal or not, passing on the right is a bad, though sometimes unavoidable tactic for several reasons:
- it's contrary to expected driving behavior
- the passing car is in the passed car's blind spot longer
- increased risk of two cars trying to merge into the same lane when the driver being passed wakes up to his responsibility to move right just as the passing driver gets fed up and decides to pass on the right.

Napier
06-15-2003, 06:05 AM
In Germany it is illegal and highly unusual to pass on the right. It is also illegal and unusual to stay in the left lane, especially if somebody is behind you. Since there is no speed limit per se, you can't have a legitimate reason to be in the left lane if somebody behind you wants to get past.

And if you do so people gesture vigorously, wave and shout, honk their horns - I think to get a similar response here you'd haave to have an injured pedestrian on your roof signalling other drivers for help....

LolaCocaCola
06-15-2003, 08:21 AM
In New York State you should usually pass on the left, but passing on the right is allowed in certain situations, but only if you can do so safely. They are:

- When a vehicle ahead is making a left turn.

- When you are driving on a one-way road that is marked for (or is wide enough for) 2 or more lanes, and passing is not restricted by signs.

clairobscur
06-15-2003, 09:37 AM
Originally posted by Napier
In Germany it is illegal and highly unusual to pass on the right. It is also illegal and unusual to stay in the left lane, especially if somebody is behind you. Since there is no speed limit per se, you can't have a legitimate reason to be in the left lane if somebody behind you wants to get past.

And if you do so people gesture vigorously, wave and shout, honk their horns - I think to get a similar response here you'd haave to have an injured pedestrian on your roof signalling other drivers for help....


It's the same in France (except for the "no speed limit" part). Other drivers react that way because nobody expect you to pass on their right, so it could be a dangerous move (the other driver could change lane without checking whether or not someone is passing him, since you're supposed to stay behind him, for instance), so they perceive you as a dangerous and reckless driver.

Besides, since as you said, people don't stay on the left lane, you can essentially always pass on the left, so there's no reason to do so on the right.

AllShookDown
06-15-2003, 09:38 AM
It's legal in Wisconsin.

346.08 When overtaking and passing on the right permitted.
The operator of a vehicle may overtake and pass another
vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such
movement in safety and only if the operator can do so without
driving off the pavement or main–traveled portion of the roadway,
and then only under the following conditions:

(2) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement of
sufficient width to enable 2 or more lines of vehicles lawfully to
proceed, at the same time, in the direction in which the passing
vehicle is proceeding;

netscape 6
06-15-2003, 10:39 AM
Originally posted by Jomo Mojo

Sooner or later, someone comes along and says it's bad to pass on the right. :dubious: (Why?)


becouse sometimes you get idiots like the semi driver who almost rearended me. the idiot decided he was going to pass on the right when i was waiting for an opening for a left turn, but upon getting closer (to close to stop) discovered he could not fit. he then started honking like a maniac. fortuently an opening appeared and i turned in a nic of time. terrible drivers out there.

Monty
06-15-2003, 12:56 PM
Originally posted by Napier
In Germany it is illegal and highly unusual to pass on the right. It is also illegal and unusual to stay in the left lane, especially if somebody is behind you. Since there is no speed limit per se, you can't have a legitimate reason to be in the left lane if somebody behind you wants to get past.

Germany does, in fact, have a speed limit. Those nifty signs with the km dictating the maximum and, in some cases, minimum speeds, aren't there for decoration. Now, some stretches of the Autobahn are speed-limit-free, but that does not mean there is no speed limit in Germany.

iaboy12
06-15-2003, 01:43 PM
I pass on the right quite frequently. But I also live in Oklahoma where people almost ritualistically drive 40 mph in a 65 mph zone in any lane that they choose regardless of the flow of traffic. Of course, they also don't know the meaning of YIELD, what a red light means, or the proper procedure at a 4-way stop! I guess that's what you get when drivers ed is optional. So, passing on the right may not be legal, but in this state it is a necessity. If it is illegal, nobody seems to care since I have often passed police on the right. I was always going the speed limit so they didn't pull me over.

raisinbread
06-15-2003, 01:53 PM
Isn't it legal to pass on the right in England???

Einmon
06-15-2003, 01:59 PM
Originally posted by Monty
Germany does, in fact, have a speed limit. Those nifty signs with the km dictating the maximum and, in some cases, minimum speeds, aren't there for decoration. Now, some stretches of the Autobahn are speed-limit-free, but that does not mean there is no speed limit in Germany.

Not true. True, there are a lot of signs limiting speed along the autobahn, but these are for certain stretches.

In general, we don't have a speed limit. What we have is a "recommended" speed of 130 km/h (about 80 mph) on the Autobahn.

And yes, it's illegal to pass on the right. Dangerous, too, because nobody expects you to. The only exception to this rule is when there's a traffic jam and the right lane is going (slightly) faster than the left.

Rayne Man
06-15-2003, 02:14 PM
Originally posted by raisinbread
Isn't it legal to pass on the right in England???
Yes but it is not legal to pass on the left, except in one-way streets. This goes for the rest of the UK as well because we are all one big country!

Dragonblink
06-15-2003, 02:51 PM
As I recall from the California Driver's Handbook, which I don't happen to have handy, it's illegal to pass on the right except in certain circumstances, highways with three or more lanes in each direction being one of them. I could be misremembering, it's been almost a year since I got my license.

robby
06-15-2003, 10:42 PM
I spent over 30 minutes trying to post this this morning at 4:00 a.m. before I gave up and went to bed. (It should have appeared right after zoltar7's post.) Anyway, having spent the time to write it, I'm posting it now, though several of my points have already been raised by others in the interim.

Originally posted by Jomo Mojo
...Sooner or later, someone comes along and says it's bad to pass on the right. :dubious: (Why?)

Sometimes people even assert that it's illegal to pass on the right...Now I'm skeptical.

Can anyone prove or disprove this statement? Is passing on the right actually illegal anywhere?
Well, it's illegal and strictly enforced on the German Autobahn, for one. (Here in Connecticut, for what it's worth, I have seen signs on I-395 emphasizing that the left lane is the "passing lane" and that the right lane is the "travel lane.")

The reason the practice should be illegal in all jurisdictions is quite clear: it is much easier to keep track of passing vehicles if they always pass on the same side of one's vehicle, particularly on the side where the driver sits, where there is less of a blind spot. Also, for a 3-lane highway, most drivers have great difficulty keeping track of vehicles passing them on both sides, especially if they occur simultaneously. This increases the chances of a driver changing lanes as he is being passed, with possibly disastrous consequences.

I have driven extensively on the Autobahn in Germany, and despite the increased speeds, always felt safer on the road than in the U.S. The reason is that German drivers are very predictable (and, in general, much better drivers). I have never seen anybody pass on the right (except in very heavy traffic, such as a traffic jam, or stau). Here in the U.S., though, I routinely see frustrated drivers weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes passing in the third slow lane for trucks. The cause is usually the oblivious idiot asleep in the left lane with ten cars stacked up behind him.

This is the most official cite (http://safety.kirtland.af.mil/AFSC/RDBMS/Ground/feedback/driving/germany.htm) in English I found regarding the laws for driving on the Autobahn:
Unless you are passing other vehicles, drive in the right lane of a three-lane highway or the right two lanes of a four-lane highway. The middle and left lanes on a three-lane highway are for passing only. After passing, return to the right lane. Passing in the right lane and reversing on the autobahn are illegal.
Also, from this website (http://gemut.com/News.asp?NewsID=7):
In the U. S., especially California, one sees stubborn drivers camping in the left lane at precisely 55 mph. Blithely they roll along, secure in the knowledge that they're traveling the speed limit and breaking no laws. Well, in Germany they are breaking the law and German drivers will quickly deal with them. It is difficult to imagine anyone withstanding the onslaught of flashing lights and tight tailgating that European drivers use to deal with slow left lane drivers. Almost never will they resort to passing in the right lane. Instead they will ride the slower car's bumper, flash headlights and even blow the horn.
Here's another cite (http://home.att.net/~texhwyman/autobahn.htm#regs):
Passing on the right is prohibited! Slower vehicles must move to the right to allow faster traffic to pass, and drivers should stay in the right lane except to pass. When passing, you must do so as quickly as possible.

Reeder
06-15-2003, 11:42 PM
The illegal passing on the right always entails leaving the roadway.

SnoopyFan
06-16-2003, 01:17 AM
IIRC it's legal to pass on the right in Kentucky. Seems like I remember reading this in my driver's manual when I was getting ready to get my license.

hibernicus
06-16-2003, 02:31 PM
Originally posted by Rayne Man
Yes but it is not legal to pass on the left, except in one-way streets. This goes for the rest of the UK as well because we are all one big country!

Well, don't forget that there are different laws and legal systems in force in the three jurisdictions: Scotland, England/Wales and Northern Ireland! But as far as I know the Rules of the Road are pretty standardised.

In the Republic of Ireland, you can pass on the left if
- you are in a one-way street
- the traffic on your right is waiting to turn right
- you are in a left-turning filter lane and about to turn left
- the traffic in the lane to your right is slow-moving or stopped.

Ferret Herder
06-16-2003, 03:08 PM
This is the most up-to-date statement on it that I could find for the state of Illinois (http://sos.state.il.us/publications/rr/rr_chap03.html#passing):

You may pass on the right but not on the shoulder:
-when you have enough room on a two-lane roadway, and when the vehicle you are passing is making or is about to make a left turn.
-when on a one-way street or on a roadway with two or more clear lanes in each direction.
-when at an intersection widened for this purpose.

However, the next list has a set of rules about the exceptions to the rule that you must drive in the right-hand lane. So typically, on a road with two lanes in each direction they do expect you to stay in the right-hand lane except when passing, etc.

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