You Don't Follow Highway Passing Rules

On a four-lane highway, two lanes in each direction usually separated by a medium divider or barrier, one of the lanes, the right one, is the travel lane. The left lane is the passing lane. On these highways it's illegal to pass on the right. (Some emergency situations may dictate otherwise).

On a six-lane highway (or larger), three lanes in each direction, it's legal to pass on the right in many states. (Check your state law). If the extreme right lane is designated by double broken white lines it is illegal to use it to pass. This is for slow uphill traffic generally used by trucks. Where there is a left exit lane, once the car is in that lane, it is legal to pass it on the right.

So what's the problem. Some drivers use the passing lane as the travel lane causing a bottleneck behind them. This is done by drivers with an inferiority complex. Driving in the travel lane and having others pass them makes them feel inferior, especially if it's a female passing a male driver. Some think that, “I have a right to be in this lane,” and drive just at or just below the speed limit. This is called Passive Aggressive and is illegal as you are impeding the safe flow of traffic.

Did I mention that the passing lane is for passing? Then if you want to pass; pass. Nervous Nellies go right up to the car's back fender and stay there for miles, afraid to pass. I can (almost) hear them pleading for me to slow down so they can pass and therefore not feel like a wimp or embarrassed because they are afraid to pass. I never follow a car trying to pass a 18-wheeler. Many stay next to the truck for miles and therefore would box me in. I wait until it clears the truck and I have a clear passing lane. In wall-to-wall traffic, obviously things will tighten up a bit – or a lot.

Nervous passers scare the dickens out of themselves so they immediately cut in front of the car they just passed and slow down. Drivers who drive defensively are aware of this phenomenon and take appropriate action to avoid an accident. If after you attempt to pass and feel it is no longer safe there is no shame in backing off and move to the travel lane when you can do so safely.


Anonymous said...

Nate, I wanted to ask for your clarification on something. I notice that many times, when on a two lane highway, drivers who are entering the highway (via my lane) often do not slow down before entering my lane (when I am on the right). Oftentimes, when I am on a long trip, I will stay in the passing lane to avoid this danger when there is little to no traffic. Of course, I maintain the speed limit at all times. Due to the number of terrible drivers on the road, what would you suggest: stay in the left lane to protect myself and my family or move into the right to follow the rules of the road?

Nate Tanguay said...

As I have previously said, the passing lane is for passing. You should stay in the travel (right) lane. Just keep aware of your stated danger. When traffic is light many drivers move into the left lane which I find no objection to, as a courtesy gesture. In heavier traffic be prepared to slow down if necessary. Drive Defensively.

Kurt T. said...

Massachusetts State Law states the Left Hand lane is not to be traveled in other than for passing a slower vehicle in the Right Hand Lane.
It is ILLEGAL! It is punishable by citation if caught traveling with no vehicles in the Right Lane, and a $200 fine if I'm not mistaken.

That said, this is one of my biggest issues with this state. It seems that this law does not apply to Route 2, and even 495 occasionally. People want to be in the left lane and if I want to keep up my pace, I must pass them on the right (also illegal and punishable by citation)

That said, if someone wants to travel in the Left Lane, fine. But if I approach, please, move over. If you don't, and I pass you on the right, don't give me dirty looks. It's you thats in the wrong.

Jaguar San Francisco said...

Wow, I never knew other drivers were even aware that some of us get nervous when passing; it happens. The worst is passing a big truck at a curve; it feels like I can't pass and takes a long time to execute. It makes it harder if there is someone tailgating me!

Anonymous said...

Not required in North Carolina

csinate said...

Why do you try to pass a big truck on a curve? I almost never do unless absolutely necessary. Also I never follow a car that is passing a truck if that would put me next to the truck. I hang back until the passing car is back in the right lane or far enough ahead of the truck that I have a clear lane to pass. The reason it seems so long to pass the truck is because it does. Many drivers, and you may be one of them, reduce their speed when they get next to the truck and maintain the truck's speed until they realize that they are not getting anywhere and decide to accelerate to the passing speed that they had to catch up to the truck. Many as soon as they get abreast to the tail of the truck stay there for up to a couple of miles. You may see some even back off and get behind the truck as they have become too frightened to pass. If you pay attention to all your surroundings you will also notice that some drivers are afraid to pass a car. They will get to your rear and hang there for a mile or more. They want you to slow down so they can pass you. If you really listen you can almost hear them begging you to allow them to pass. If it doesn't pose a danger I usually slow down and give them permission to pass me. Their inferiority complex is devastating enough already without me totally destroying what little ego they have left. Maintain your passing speed through the pass and be aware around curves that the truck doesn't veer into your lane - like many do. Stay safe.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question for you. A car driven by an elderly driver in CT was traveling in the passing lane, way under the speed limit. My friend passed this elderly person on the right. HOWEVER, he got a ticket for speeding (justified because he was speeding to overtake) and passing on the right. If he had not been speeding, would he have still gotten a ticket for passing on the right?? If someone is in the passing lane going the minimum speed limit (40 mph in a 65 mph zone), does this mean that you can't maintain your 65 mph speed in the travel lane and pass on the right? There are no real provisions in CT Section 14-233.

Nate said...

Sec. 14-233. Sub Sec.(2) when lines of vehicles traveling in the same direction in adjoining traffic lanes have come to a stop or have reduced their speed;

Appears that if the driver (in question)had not been speeding he should not have gotten a ticket. Drivers seeing a car going 40 mph in the passing lane could certainly presume that he was slowing down and/or turning left, therefore feel that they could pass on the right. Of course, if there were no obstructions on the roadway and could pass safely. If the driver in the passing lane was not passing slower traffic in the right lane at that speed then he probably should have been ticketed for obstructing traffic and traveling in the passing lane. Many drivers don't understand that the Traveling Lane is for traveling and the Passing Lane is for passing.
Note: An officer, based on the situation, could merely give a warning or take no action at all if no driver posed any danger to others or was not driving in a reckless manner.
Hope this answers your question.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nate,
It pretty much answers my question. However, if slow drivers are traveling in the passing lane, it appears that if you pass them on the right within the speed limit, you still are in violation of Sec 14-233 (especially to an officer that might be having a bad day).

Nate said...

I agree. In days of yore if we didn't know what the driver did but felt that it was bad anyway we'd just give him a ticket for "Failure To Obey Rules Of The Road.' Of course there was no such law but there never was a problem as they would just mail in the $15.00 fine.
True incident: While a PI in CO I investigated a case where a driver was given a speeding ticket for 1-4 mph over the limit. Last day of the month is a bitch trying to fill that quota.

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