When Is It Legal and Illegal To Pass Someone?

If you get a ticket for illegal passing, it could be a moving violation that puts points on your license and could lead to your auto insurance rate to increase. You know to follow the law, but when exactly is it legal and illegal to pass someone?

Passing on the Left

The rules for passing on the left are pretty simple. On a multi-lane road, you can almost always pass using a travel lane heading in the same direction. The only exception is in areas marked "no passing" or with solid lines. You may not pass in dedicated turn lanes. You also need to obey the posted speed limit.

On two-lane roads, you can pass using the opposite lane when you have a dotted yellow line both at the start and finish of the passing maneuver. Of course, you also need to safely clear oncoming traffic. There is no exception to the speed limit with this type of passing, either.

Passing on the Right

Passing on the right in travel lanes varies. Some states treat it the same as moving a lane to the left to overtake. Other states prohibit passing on the right even when another driver is camping in the left or middle lanes. The safety reasons for states banning passing on the right are conflicts between cars passing on the right and left moving back to the middle lane.

Passing off the road, such as to avoid waiting for a car turning left, is almost always illegal.

What About Buses?

Passing stopped school buses is obviously illegal and results in heavy fines with the exception of states that allow traffic heading in the opposite direction on a divided road to continue.

City buses create a more uncertain situation. If there are multiple lanes for your direction, you can move to an available lane. If there's a single lane for your direction, it's often illegal to cross a double yellow line to pass a city bus even if it's stopped for loading and unloading. Some states may enforce this more strictly than others, so what you see on the road may not be the actual law.

Check your local laws to know what to do in your area and avoid a ticket that could increase your car insurance rates.