Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Passing on the right

If there is room for a driver or cyclist to squeeze through, they will do it.

By Tim Schewe

Q: Can you do an article on cars passing on the right? Especially when you are at an intersection on a two lane road and making a left turn. I have had cars whiz by me on the right because they were too impatient to wait. Also I have been making a left turn before a crosswalk and people have been crossing and cars go by on the right almost hitting the person in the crosswalk.

My traffic policing experience has shown me that if there is room for a driver or cyclist to squeeze through, they will do it. The urge to continue seems to outweigh any legal requirement to wait. As you explain in your crosswalk example, there is sometimes little thought given to why the vehicle ahead of them is stopped.

I also suspect that some drivers and riders don’t know what the rules for passing on the right are. They are found in section 158 of the Motor Vehicle Act with advice on page 54 of Learn to Drive Smart and page 102 of Tuning Up for Drivers.

In general, passing on the right is forbidden in British Columbia. There are only three situations where this may be done legally and they are subject to restrictions as well:

• You may pass an overtaken vehicle on the right if there is an unobstructed lane that permits motor vehicle travel there to do it in.

• You may pass an overtaken vehicle on the right if you are driving on a one way street, there is an unobstructed lane and the street is at least two lanes wide.

• You may pass an overtaken vehicle on the right if it 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. Lack of a signal might be a clue in this instance.

I did mention restrictions:

• You must not pass on the right if it is unsafe to do so.

• You must not pass on the right if doing so means driving off of the roadway.

You may recall from past columns that the roadway is the part of the highway between the centre line and the solid white line at the right edge, or if no solid line is marked, then the edge of the pavement.

One complication that drivers have to be aware of more often these days are bicycle lanes. Like driving on the shoulder, cycling lanes that are marked with a solid white line mean that you must not drive along them.

If you are interested in what our provincial courts have to say about passing on the right, there are five case law articles reported on the DriveSmartBC site as well as an analysis by Paul Hergott of Hergott Law.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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