Passing on the right is typically against the law, but there are circumstances where you are legally allowed to pass on the right. Before we jump into when, where, and why passing on the right is an acceptable roadway maneuver, it’s important to know that any maneuver made on the road should be done safely. Even when you are legally allowed to execute a pass, a turn, or anything else, drivers still need to be safe and aware at all times.
There are only three instances, in British Columbia, where passing on the right is permitted, and we’re breaking them down for you in today’s article!
Approach with Caution
Whenever attempting to pass another vehicle, the driver must be as cautious as possible. You must not pass on the right if it is unsafe to do so, and you must not pass on the right if it means driving off the roadway. If you move into another vehicle’s lane, that vehicle has the right of way and other traffic is not required to slow down or make room for you to pass.
Wait for a Clear Lane
First, you are able to pass a vehicle on the right if there is an entirely clear lane that would allow you to execute the maneuver without impeding other traffic. For instance, a slow driver in the left lane on the highway, who is travelling under the speed limit, can be passed by drivers in the right lane. If you need to move to the right lane to pass, shoulder check, signal, and ensure the right lane is clear before making your lane change into the right lane to pass. You may not exceed the speed limit while passing!
Second, you can overtake a vehicle on the right if you are travelling down a one-way, unobstructed, street that is at least two lanes wide. Once again, this may be due to slow travel or a vehicle that has stopped. If a vehicle is stalled or stopped to make a delivery or drop-off, be very cautious and ensure that there are no pedestrians moving near the vehicle or attempting to cross to the other side of the road. Additionally, a vehicle may appear to be slowing or stopping for no reason, but in reality, they may be stopping for a pedestrian. Always scan and observe all your surroundings before overtaking a suddenly slowing or stopping vehicle. You should never attempt to pass a vehicle if they are stopped by a pedestrian crossing.
Drivers Turning Left
Third, you may pass a vehicle on the right if that vehicle is turning left, or the driver is signalling the intention to turn left. If a vehicle not turning has stopped between you and the vehicle turning left, you must wait. You may only execute this pass if there is enough space on the roadway for your vehicle without crossing any solid painted lines or driving onto the shoulder. Bicycle lanes are included in this statement, and you should not drive over them or use them as additional passing space.
It is common, yet risky, practice for drivers to squeeze into spaces that they don’t necessarily fit into or can’t make it out of. Assessing the risks of unsafe drivers is essential when navigating your own safety and it is equally important to be familiar with the rules of the road every time you make a move that relies on or impacts other drivers. Passing on the right may be risky, so ensure you understand when passing on the right is legal and safe, to avoid accidents, incidents or potential tickets.