Skip

What does "passing on the right" actually mean?
June 24, 2012 9:57 PM   Subscribe

What does "passing on the right" actually mean?

This falls into the category of "things I should probably be embarrassed about not knowing."

Comments in a recent post on the blue made it clear to me that (1) people have strong opinions on the subject of passing on the right and (2) I have no idea what that actually means.

As a coastal, urban, U.S. resident who drives very rarely, and even more rarely on roads that aren't either deserted or six lanes wide, I've never given any thought to the idea of "passing on the right." When it came up in DMV tests when I was in high-school, I always assumed it was some archaic convention that meant something when applied to roads in some distant place and had nothing to do with me.

Some time with search engines has failed to enlighten me. Like the metafilter discussion, I gather only that people who know what it means seem to care about it, and can't find a clear description of what it is they're talking about.

The California DMV claims that passing on the right is legal "Upon a highway within a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles in the direction of travel." That more or less describes every road on which I've ever considered passing anyone on either side for any reason.

So, please, educate me. What does "passing on the right" actually mean in the real world? Is it something that only applies to one-lane highways in the outback, where passing on the right seems not only dangerous but downright crazy? If I'm on a multi-lane highway and am traveling faster than someone in a lane to my left, does that count as passing on the right? Is that bad? (If so, it seems utterly inconceivable that one could avoid doing this. The US highways are stacked with slow-moving, left-lane drivers.) If I'm behind someone in the left lane and move right lane in order to speed up, does that count?
posted by eotvos to Travel & Transportation (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
it's conventional for slower traffic to stay to the right. someone in the left lane seeing someone coming up behind them would naturally move over into the righthand lane to let the faster car pass. if the faster car tried to pass on the right, there might be a collision. also, on highways, offramps are usually on the right, which means traffic merges right constantly. you definitely don't want faster, overtaking vehicles on the right.
posted by facetious at 10:06 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I'm on a multi-lane highway and am traveling faster than someone in a lane to my left, does that count as passing on the right? Is that bad?

According to certain people, yes. And I think this is what this refers to. In practice, there is no way to avoid doing so.

I always found this concept confusing too. I mean, I'm allowed to change lanes. So, if I go out of the fast lane, happen to drive by someone, then decide I want to be in the fast lane again, have I "passed" them? Or was I just changing lanes? Who knows.

When I was in Germany I noticed the following convention: When you're on the Autobahn and someone is going too slow in the fast lane, you get up right behind them and put on your *left* blinker, indicating "please move aside for me." But I have never witnessed this is the U.S. and thus "passing on the right."
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:08 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Passing on the right is what you do when you're on the highway, there's someone in front of you who you want to pass, and you go around and pass them on their right rather than on their left as you normally would.

Normally you'd pass on the left because on a multi-lane road the left lane is the "fast lane" and also drivers have better visibility on the left-hand side of their car. Passing on the right is therefore a bit dangerous because the person you are passing can't see you and probably isn't expecting a car to pass them on that side. Therefore, it is to be avoided whenever possible and is actually illegal in some places.

Note that this is all reversed in countries like the UK where people drive on the left hand side of the road.
posted by Scientist at 10:09 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


(This is important in Germany where speeds may be extremely high, and vary vastly between cars. On the average U.S. freeway where everyone in every lane is basically going somewhere between 55 and 80, it's less relevant. So I think this is more "something to get mad about" than an actual problem on U.S. freeways.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:11 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's about multi-lane highways and refers to the convention that the right lane is for slow/slower-moving traffic. The left lane thus becomes used only for passing. Yes, this convention completely falls apart with the amount of congestion common on most urban U.S. highways and is really only about highway traffic moving quite well (such that people can largely drive as fast as they care to when they stick to the right-hand lane.)

Passing solely on the left requires a fair bit of etiquette from everyone involved, mostly in terms of semi-slow people in the left lane merging right when someone faster is coming behind them. As in your case, most people in the U.S. do not seem to either be aware of or care to accommodate this custom and move right when driving slower, so it falls apart.
posted by pahalial at 10:11 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have driven from the East Coast to the West coast. Driven from the West coast to the East coast. Driven from down south, up the East coast to the NorthEast. From my experience, passing on the right is really for multiple lane highways so you have distinct flows of traffic. If it is a 6 lane highway, which is pretty common, you have 3 lanes going each direction.

One lane all the way to the right for your elderly and safe folk where you can just sit there and essentially ignore all traffic and just drive at the speed limit.

Middle lane for people with somewhere to be, who progress by passing others in the middle lane by periodically getting in and back out of the...

Left lane, which is the high speed lane for the motorcyclists and speeders who are sweating their butts off going 85-90mph, clearly over the speed limit, avoiding cops.

This keeps a nice traffic flow and gives rules to the road. Else, you have people swerving in and out of traffic making questionable decisions and narrowly avoiding accidents. The sarcophagi and safe people in the slow lane can't relax and just drive because some looney is going 90 to try to beat others and you have traffic merging into that lane and it's just a mess. The people in the middle lane get in the left lane at an increased speed trying to pass and then merge back into the middle lane and that causes problems if you're trying to do that while some daredevil is coming in from the right, supposedly slow lane.

There is an order to things on the road. Dynamics change if it is 2 lanes on each side, but essentially, if you aren't passing, get the hell out of the left, high speed lane. Some people (including family members of mine) simply do not get that there is an order to the road.
posted by cashman at 10:14 PM on June 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


Of course, the fact that there are so many "slow-moving, left-lane drivers" that don't all "naturally move over into the righthand lane" is how people get such strong opinions. If it were an easy rule to follow, everyone would just do it and not need to talk about it.
posted by RobotHero at 10:15 PM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


(Also, if someone zoomed up behind me and then put their blinker on I would expect that they were either crazy or about to go around me or both. That's in the U.S., anyway, where we definitely don't have the convention that drjimmy11 described above. Please don't do this in the U.S.)

Also also it's sometimes hard to avoid passing people on the right as the lanes of traffic on a highway don't always organize themselves such that each lane to the left is going a bit faster than the last.

Also also also, sometimes you'll be in the leftmost lane and there will be some oblivious idiot who's clogging up the lane going 20mph under the damn speed limit and who shows no sign of moving out of the lane because they're in their own little world and have no inkling of the fact that there is a massive car train behind them and that they are creating a hazard that's disrupting traffic for miles and miles and the only thing you can do is go around them on the right and get away from them as quickly as possible.

*breathe*

Don't pass semi-trailers on the right though, even if they are being idiots, because they will have no idea that you are there and if they decide to change lanes to the right they will squash you like a bug.
posted by Scientist at 10:16 PM on June 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh, and all that said, if it's post holiday traffic and there are a bunch of people on the road who don't get the rules and are consistently throwing everything off, then the no passing on the right thing is like not putting qtips in your ear canal. You're not supposed to do it, but it feels oh so good to do if there is a clog.
posted by cashman at 10:16 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the idealized world of traffic safety films from the 1950s, a left-lane driver who is holding traffic up would move to a right lane as a courtesy. In that world, passing on the right is rude because you're basically telling the other driver he's an idiot.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:18 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


(This is important in Germany where speeds may be extremely high, and vary vastly between cars.

I believe in Germany that it's quite illegal to pass on the right, but also to pull into the fast (left) lane and amble slowly along. And I think that a version of this is also the case in the U.K. (although there, of course, it's passing on the left). I've also heard that the U.K. has far few serious accidents on its multi-lane roads because of this. That is, unless you're passing, it's illegal to be in the passing lane.
posted by philip-random at 10:20 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The exception I make to this rule is when I'm on the open highway and I see an 18-wheeler approaching in my lane (the right lane) at a speed faster than I'm driving. I'll move over to the left lane and let them pass me on the right. I figure it's easier and quicker for me to maneuver in and out of lanes in a regular car than it is for them in a huge vehicle. This generally only works though if there's not a lot of close traffic.
posted by fuse theorem at 10:24 PM on June 24, 2012


I've also heard that if you're in the passing lane, you should be passing cars on the right - going faster than them. If you're not, you should move over.

It's unsafe to pass on the right, partially because it's harder to see, and also because of driving conventions in the US as discussed above.

I've also always had a vague sense that it's illegal to be in the passing lane unless you're passing, and it turns out that is true in some states, but not the state where I took Driver's Ed, so I don't know where I picked that notion up.
posted by k8lin at 10:26 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


k8lin, if you're in the U.S. and you're in the passing lane and passing other cars, then you are passing them on the left (as is proper). That is, you are to the left of the cars you are passing because you are in the leftmost lane. The cars you are passing are to your right, but you are not "passing them on the right". The "right" in the phrase "passing on the right" refers to the right of the car being passed, not the right of the car doing the passing.
posted by Scientist at 10:31 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a former trucker, we used to call the left side, the passing side, and the right, suicide. (Because the right side is more difficult to see with only mirrors from the cab.)
posted by rmmcclay at 10:38 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


On a three lane highway with the right lane empty but drivers occupying the middle lane (for some reason not sure why if the right lane is empty) and I am driving in the right lane because I have been taught to drive right, pass left and I pass someone on the right, isn't the person in the wrong here the person in the middle lane for no reason?
posted by AugustWest at 11:15 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Passing on the right is not at all archaic and it happens all the time when there are multiple lanes of traffic going in the same direction.

I know you say you rarely drive, but have you ever been in a car in the left lane, and another car behind you is tailgating you, flashing their headlights at you, perhaps honking their horn at you and/or flipping you the bird?

When that happens, that is because YOU ARE DRIVING LIKE A GRANDMA IN THE LEFT LANE, BUDDY, SO MOVE OVER! Since the left lane is the passing lane!

If there is room and it is safe to pass on the right, such occasions generally call for doing so. Oftentimes, if there is a driver who is going slowly in the left lane for some reason, and they are too clueless to realize that they are supposed to move over and get out of the way, the driver behind them will just do a milder version of this, perhaps tailgating a little or just flicking the headlights once, to see if they get the picture and move, before giving up and passing on the right.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:16 PM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sorry to thread-jack a bit, but I've always wanted to ask this: What do people in Germany (or other "we're all better drivers than you, we've got real laws" nations) do when no one's moving at all? Do you all queue at a stop in the rightmost lane, or do you spread out to queue at a stop in all lanes? If so, is it illegal? (Also, do you just not have left exits or left hand turns?)
posted by anaelith at 11:31 PM on June 24, 2012


I don't know if it's illegal to pass in Germany on the right, but it's something I don't know, because it was never necessary, when driving on the Autobahn, for me to try to pass anyone. If you're going slower in the left lane than the guy behind you, you move to the right.

As far as being caught in a stau, I only remember this happening on the smaller roads, but when it does, everyone just suffers through the stop and go until the obstruction is removed or until they're past the choke point, at which point everything normalizes.

I don't think passing on the right is the sin some people think it is. If you're a decent driver, you make sure there's enough room in the right lane, so it's not necessarily dangerous.
posted by corb at 11:46 PM on June 24, 2012


What do people in Germany do when no one's moving at all?

There is an exception in the law for situations where you are stopped or going slowly in dense traffic. So yes, when going something like below 30 mph Germans frequently pass on the right as part of the traffic flow.
posted by patrick54 at 11:53 PM on June 24, 2012


Over here in New South Wales, Australia (where people drive on the left, and the driver sits on the right side in the car), the law is clear:

(1) A driver (except the rider of a bicycle) must not overtake a vehicle to the left of the vehicle unless:

(a) the driver is driving on a multi-lane road and the vehicle can be safely overtaken in a marked lane to the left of the vehicle, or

(b) the vehicle is turning right, or making a U-turn from the centre of the road, and is giving a right change of direction signal and it is safe to overtake to the left of the vehicle, or

(c) the vehicle is stationary and it is safe to overtake to the left of the vehicle.

posted by vidur at 12:04 AM on June 25, 2012


Yes, apologies for my confusing phrasing. You are passing the cars that are driving on your right. Sorry.
posted by k8lin at 12:25 AM on June 25, 2012


In southern CA, it seems to be common convention for the leftmost lane to be generally reserved for passing or the fastest moving vehicles. That said, it's entirely common for someone to slide into the left lane, and park their vehicle into the posted speed limit with cruise control, even when prevailing traffic is moving 10mph faster. So most folks pass on the right without much incident. Maybe some occasional grumbling or a middle finger.

A similar thing happens in carpool lanes, when some motorists seem to treat them like the Autobahn, until they meet the guy typically going a reasonable speed. Eventually, that guy becomes the bottleneck of the carpool lane until he leaves, or everyone passes him on the right.

In that original thread, folks got all pissy about the propriety of passing on the right. But as pahalial points out, these conventions require fairly universal compliance. In the absence of strict compliance, the system kinda falls apart and becomes more laissez faire. Without a whole lot of detriment, afaik. It does seem to allow the sticklers to become self righteous about the system, however.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:55 AM on June 25, 2012


If so, is it illegal? (Also, do you just not have left exits or left hand turns?)

In general, you must drive as far to the right as possible and overtake on the left (when allowed). You are not allowed to drive in the far left lane without justifiable cause like overtaking. Exceptions to the rule are:

* On motorways with several lanes for traffic in one direction, you are allowed to drive in the other lanes "if this is justified by the volume of traffic". If there is a traffic jam, you may overtake on the right with caution.
* Inside built-up areas, vehicles with a total mass of 3.5t or less may travel faster on the right than they would on the left.
* Outside of built-up areas with three lanes going in one direction, you may stay in the center lane and pass on the left, or pass on the right if a vehicle is turning left from the left-hand lane.
* If the traffic is directed by arrows or traffic lights, it is always permissible to pass on the right.
* If you are on the autobahn and there are lanes leading off (usually to another autobahn), you are allowed to pass the traffic in those lanes on the right.

Source: My drivers license study book from 2008.
posted by cmonkey at 1:01 AM on June 25, 2012


Apart from conventions, when I went through driving school here in the North-Eastern U.S. a couple of decades ago I got the impression that if you were to get into an accident and it could be demonstrated that this occurred while you were trying to pass someone on the right or as a consequence of the attempt this would be a detriment during adjudication though not necessarily decisive.
posted by XMLicious at 1:28 AM on June 25, 2012


I actually was going to comment in that thread about the strong reaction to right-lane passers but decided against it. I thought it was a little weird that people were so against it.

I remember from my driving license classes and training that passing on the right was a "bad thing", although it was never clear if it was actually illegal. Googling for Michigan law, it looks like it's actually legal in highways with 2 or more lanes of continuous movement.

Living in Washington now, drivers seem even more cautious and conservative. I freely pass on the right when I see a chance, although always keeping at least a safe 3-4 car distance ahead if possible.

I just got back from a trip to Detroit, and the merging and passing behavior seemed insane after spending time here. Just merging onto I-94 freaked me out, with cars merging into lanes with little more than a cars width available. It's obvious there are different perceptions of safety and risk in different areas, whether it's countries, states or cities, and these perceptions are going to affect acceptance of passing behavior.

If I'm on a multi-lane highway and am traveling faster than someone in a lane to my left, does that count as passing on the right? Is that bad? (If so, it seems utterly inconceivable that one could avoid doing this. The US highways are stacked with slow-moving, left-lane drivers.)

And that is the root of the problem, and from previous threads on here and elsewhere, it's obvious some of these drivers are acting as self-appointed traffic-cops, trying to control "speeding" drivers. Even though these speeds are artificial and often lead to more accidents.

I am continually frustrated with slow moving drivers in the left lane out in Seattle, and at the same time, the stop-and-go nature of rush hour traffic is equally disturbing. The car in front of somebody will move up a bit, and the driver will rush up to fill that spot. Then traffic is stopped again.

Keep a safe distance behind the car in front of you, keep that elastic distance open when in rush hour. Simple rules that I think help more with traffic then acting as some self-appointed Traffic God in the left-hand lane.

It's like jaywalking in Seattle and New York. Out here, people look at you like a leper if you walk across the street when the Sign says No.
posted by formless at 2:18 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always heard it called 'undertaking', where 'passing' would be 'overtaking'. Wikipedia has an article referencing the legality in a few jurisdictions.

United Kingdom - The Highway Code discourages undertaking on motorways with some exceptions (rule 268): "Do not overtake on the left or move to a lane on your left to overtake". Undertaking is permitted in congested conditions when frequent lane changing is not recommended.[4] On other roads, the Code advises drivers "should only overtake on the left if the vehicle in front is signalling to turn right" (rule 163).[5] Rule 163 uses advisory wording and "will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted", but may be used in evidence to establishing liability in any court proceedings.[6] On all roads, undertaking is permitted if the vehicles in the lane to the right are queueing and slow moving. Undertaking in an aggressive or reckless manner could be considered Careless Driving or more seriously Dangerous Driving, both of which are legally enforceable offences.

United States - Undertaking is usually allowed if not expressly forbidden by road signs.

posted by knapah at 3:17 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Previously, on undertaking from a non-US perspective: given the visibility limitations of "across and behind you", lane discipline and consistent overtaking procedures add a degree of predictability to mitigate risk.
posted by holgate at 4:43 AM on June 25, 2012


Some people(older drivers and people on cell phones) like the left lane because they use the barrier as a lane location device rather than looking out in front of them. They are oblivious to minimum sped limits and the overall traffic flow. Often, there is no other choice but to pass them on the right.
posted by Xurando at 4:50 AM on June 25, 2012


In drivers' education (USA 1980s) we were told to generally stay in the middle lane on freeways if we were not passing or entering/exiting. As I recall, we were told that the far right lane was chaotic with people merging on and off the freeway so it was better not to hang out there for long distances.

The scariest part of passing on the right for me is when two cars decide to pass the same car at the same time, one to the left and one to the right. Then they both return to the original lane at the same time.
posted by SandiBeech at 5:12 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here in Victoria, Australia, we have similar rules to those listed above for New South Wales but there is an additional rule that applies to roads with a speed limit over 80 km/h. Such roads feature large signs reading "KEEP LEFT UNLESS OVERTAKING" and police have recently announced that they will be ticketing drivers who fail to do that.
posted by flabdablet at 5:35 AM on June 25, 2012


My understanding - which may have been just my own personal, made-up thing - was that Passing On The Right was when you actively changed lanes to the right in order to pass another vehicle. That still does strike me as more dangerous than just continuing on when you happen to be to the right of another vehicle going slower than you.

Reading a thread like this makes me glad I don't drive regularly anymore.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:00 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I believe in Germany that it's quite illegal to pass on the right. Yes, and that law is so rarely broken that when someone passed our car on the right somewhere in rural Bavaria, the other passengers asked the driver (all of them German), if he wanted to pull over for a moment to gather himself after this frightening experience. The incident then became a topic of conversation, both in the car and at the dinner party later. As somebody who grew up driving in Boston, I was amazed.
posted by carmicha at 6:15 AM on June 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


United States - Undertaking is usually allowed if not expressly forbidden by road signs.

Do not rely on this, or on any other generalization about traffic laws in the US. Each state has its own traffic laws, and even if you are totally familiar with the laws in your home state, you can get into trouble in another one. This is most definitely true in the specific case of passing on the right.

Passing on the right does not refer only to something that happens on multilane highways. In some places (including some that allow it on highways), passing a car turning left is illegal on two-lane roads. By this, I mean in an intersection where there is room to go around that there might not be at another part of the road. If there's a dedicated left-turn lane, you can of course go by on the right. (I think - see my first paragraph.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:17 AM on June 25, 2012


Left lane, which is the high speed lane for the motorcyclists and speeders who are sweating their butts off going 85-90mph, clearly over the speed limit, avoiding cops.
posted by cashman


There's another reason motorcyclists prefer the left lane, apart from speeding: it's the safest lane. With the exception of the rare left-hand on-ramp, a rider in the left lane only needs to watch his right hemisphere for incoming cars. Both the middle and right lanes require 360-degree surveillance.
posted by workerant at 6:35 AM on June 25, 2012


When I was in Germany I noticed the following convention: When you're on the Autobahn and someone is going too slow in the fast lane, you get up right behind them and put on your *left* blinker, indicating "please move aside for me." But I have never witnessed this is the U.S. and thus "passing on the right."

In (particularly east) Texas, this request is customarily expressed by a single flash of the headlights, which may be repeated less politely and more emphatically if the slowpoke in the fast lane doesn't move over quickly enough. Texas highways used to be marked "slow traffic keep right" but they are now marked "left lane passing only", which isn't very useful given that most four-lane (two each way) highways are too busy most of the time for all cars to stay in the right lane for passing only.
posted by immlass at 7:06 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Folks, this thread is for answering the OPs question, not for continuing the debate from the MeFi thread.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:25 AM on June 25, 2012


Good question, and maybe one whose answer is not precisely well-defined. I would say, as a rule of thumb: if you have to change lanes to do it, it's passing, and if you don't have to change lanes to do it, it's not passing. So my answer to

If I'm on a multi-lane highway and am traveling faster than someone in a lane to my left, does that count as passing on the right? Is that bad?

Is "No" and "No, unless the reason you're traveling faster than the person to your left is that you're going too fast."

In general, the convention is to leave the left lane empty so that people can pass; ideally, nobody is staying in the left hand lane. If a driver is occupying the passing lane, sitting behind them for ten seconds or so, or at most flashing the headlights, is generally sufficient to get them to move over, if they can.

So what behavior is the rule meant to prevent?

Well, what's quite common is a situation where (let's say) you're on a two-lane highway with a 65 speed limit, and traffic is moving along at 70. Somebody gets on who would rather be going 85. What those people typically do, rather than slow to the prevailing traffic rate, is sit in the passing lane and zip along at 85, oblivious to everyone around them. (So far, this is not what the rule is about, bear with me.) Now what happens when the speeder encounters someone in the left lane? This could be somebody else inconsiderately occupying the passing lane, or it could be someone who's in the passing lane because they're passing -- say, a line of cars is getting on the highway from the ramp, obviously not moving at 70mph, so the traffic in the left lane moves right temporarily to leave room for the entering vehicles.

Now the speeder has two choices. The correct one is to slow to the speed of prevailing traffic. The incorrect one -- and this is what the "don't pass on the right" rule is really about -- is to swerve into the right lane at 85mph in order to get around the traffic moving at prevailing speed.

In my experience, this is a lot more common than somebody driving twenty mph under the speed limit in the passing lane. For some reason the expressways in Chicago are particularly bad for this -- people weave left and right with abandon with just a carlength or two of room to spare. Of course, each time someone does this, it makes everybody else in that lane brake, which slows down prevailing traffic, making the person who's in a hurry even more frustrated and apt to cut in front of somebody else, and so it goes.
posted by escabeche at 7:55 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


While the discussion seems to focus primarily on highway driving, I would like to point out there are other situations where passing on the right is an issue. Surface streets, especially ones that are a single lane in both directions, are a constant source of the temptation to pass on the right. Specifically when someone is blocking the flow of traffic on their side while waiting for an opening on the other side so that they may turn left. As cars queue up behind them, they will tend to want to go around them on the right. This is often illegal because in many states it is illegal to use the shoulders to pass, or you would be violating the bicycle lane putting cyclists in danger.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:36 AM on June 25, 2012


I always thought it meant "don't try to pass people by driving on the shoulder on a two-lane highway." So far as I can tell, passing on the right on a multi-lane, limited-access highway is legal in all the states I've lived in: MA, IN, IL, FL, PA.

Specifically when someone is blocking the flow of traffic on their side while waiting for an opening on the other side so that they may turn left. As cars queue up behind them, they will tend to want to go around them on the right.

All of the state statutes linked to above specifically say that passing on the right is OK in this situation.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:41 AM on June 25, 2012


if you have to change lanes to do it, it's passing, and if you don't have to change lanes to do it, it's not passing.

Exactly! If you are in the right lane, don't worry about the lanes to your left. Pay attention to them of course, but they should not affect your speed.

While in the left lane, moving into the right lane immediately and not giving the person ahead of you a chance to move over is far more dangerous than driving behind them for a short time, realizing they are not going to move over and calmly changing lanes to get around them.
posted by soelo at 8:44 AM on June 25, 2012


Imagine 3 lanes of traffic going the same direction. 1-2-3 from right to left. Lane 1 is where traffic is entering and exiting the stream. Lane 2 is where most people are driving. I'm in lane 2 and come upon a slower car (SC). I look to my left, see it's clear, move into lane 3. I pass the car in lane 2 and when I look in my rear view mirror and see his bumper, I know it's safe to move back into lane 2.

At the same time, imagine some shit-for-brains (SFB) is traveling in Lane 1 at 90 mph, passes SC on the right and decides to merge into Lane 2.

SFB wants to occupy the same space in Lane 2 that I want. SC is between us, so we can't see each other. SFB can't see me or the turn signal I'm using. We're both paying most of our attention to the road in front of us and we hit each other. SFB jerks the wheel to the right, then back to the left, which initiates a spin and he pirouettes along until someone slams into the driver's door, killing him almost instantly.

This is one of many scenarios that can be prevented by following the damn rules.
posted by pjaust at 8:44 AM on June 25, 2012


I would say, as a rule of thumb: if you have to change lanes to do it, it's passing, and if you don't have to change lanes to do it, it's not passing.

Not in Germany.
posted by snownoid at 10:05 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was taught that if you pass on the right, you ought to let out a little honk so the driver on the left A) knows you're there, passing them and B) might be shamed into moving over as you've now drawn attention to their bad road behavior.

I do practice the little honk if it seems like an errant car on a two-lane highway especially if there's not a lot of traffic, but on a multi-lane highway I do not honk when I pass on the right.
posted by vegartanipla at 11:28 AM on June 25, 2012


As pointed out by holgate, I asked about this last year, but in a different way. Seems to me the elephant in this room is drivers who change lanes on the freeway without signaling or even checking their mirrors to see if it's clear, behavior this California driver considers bizarre and suicidal.
posted by Rash at 11:53 AM on June 25, 2012


Seconding jeffamaphone. I once got into an accident on a residential street because there was a car stopped at a green light, with no directional, toward the left side of the lane. Assuming they were turning left, I went to pass on the right. They decided they wanted to turn right... smack into my car. I was considered to be partially at fault, because I was passing on the right, but since they hit the back half of my car, they were mostly at fault for being idiots. So that tends to be what I think of when I think of not passing on the right.
posted by Ruki at 3:29 PM on June 25, 2012


Surprised no one mentioned this. The biggest risk with passing on the right is that you are entering the largest blind spot (the right rear half) of the vehicle you are over taking.

This means that during a pass on the right you are essentially invisible to the other driver from the point the front of vehicle approaches their rear bumper until front your vehicle is even with the passengers side door of the vehicle you are over taking. This is even worse when a small vehicle is passing a large SUV. You are betting your and the other drivers safety on the assumption that the other driver will look over their shoulder before they move over to lane you happen to be in. The other factor that adds to the risk is speed differential. The faster you come into the other drivers blind spot the better chance they will have not noticed you since their last glance in the rear view. The blind spot on the left side of the vehicle is much smaller. As illustrated here
posted by empty vessel at 8:32 PM on June 26, 2012


« Older I recently was playing with a ...   |  How do I get my Kindle 4 to re... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post