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Is It Legal to Pass on the Right?

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on December 02, 2015 12:59 PM

The details vary from state to state but, generally speaking, passing laws are created to keep drivers safe. Tickets remind us that even on the open road, there are rules and you must stay in line with the law. You can pass on the right in some states but only under very specific conditions.

Passing on the right lane is only ever allowed when it does not endanger other drivers and the way is visible. While you will still need to look up the traffic laws in your state, let's take a look at California's code, which provides for passage on the right in very particular circumstances.

Passing Particulars

California Vehicle Code Section 21754 provides that a driver may overtake and pass to the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:

  • When the vehicle you are passing is making or about to make a left turn.
  • On a highway in a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement sufficiently wide for two or more lines of moving vehicles in the direction of travel.
  • On any highway outside of a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width and clearly marked for two or more lines of moving traffic in the direction of travel.
  • On a one-way street.
  • On a highway divided into two roadways where traffic is restricted to one direction upon each of such roadways.

The code also states that the above provisions "do not relieve the driver of a slow-moving vehicle from the duty to drive as closely as practicable to the right hand edge of the roadway."

Putting It Together

Whatever the particulars of the passing laws on your state, you can be sure that the general principle is always the same. Do not pass unless it is safe to do so. Wherever you are and whatever side you are passing on, look very carefully and avoid unnecessary lane-hopping.

Points from tickets can add up to pricier insurance and ignoring tickets can result in much more than accumulated points, like a warrant for your arrest in some states. If you do find yourself cited for a traffic infraction or worse, a traffic crime, talk to a lawyer. Counsel can appear on your behalf in court, negotiate for no points if you plead guilty to the infraction, or mount a serious defense if you are charged with a criminal offense.

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