Passing on a multi-lane highway

On a multi-lane highway, slower traffic should use the travel lane furthest to the right (unless needing the left lane to turn left). This leaves the left lane available for drivers of other vehicles for passing.

Passing lanes

A passing lane is a lane added to a highway to allow passing, often in the mountains. Slower vehicles move into the passing lane to the right, permitting other vehicles to pass safely in the left lane. Signs will alert drivers to a passing lane ahead.

When approaching the end of the passing lane, drivers in the right lane must merge safely with traffic to the left. Drivers in the left lane must cooperate to let drivers from the right lane merge. Signs are posted to alert drivers that the passing lane is ending.

Passing lane
A passing lane permits other vehicles to pass safely.

Passing on a 2-lane highway

On a 2-lane highway (one lane of traffic in each direction), passing another vehicle can be difficult and dangerous. Errors in judgment can result in head-on collisions, and these often cause fatalities. Passing should be done only where it is legal, when it is necessary, and with extreme caution.

Before passing another vehicle on a 2-lane road, do the following:

  • Pass only where it is permitted.
  • Keep a safe following distance behind the vehicle you intend to pass.
  • Pass vehicles only when there is no oncoming traffic for a safe distance.
  • Check your outside and inside rear view mirrors.
  • Do a shoulder check to the left to look for vehicles that may be passing you on the left. These vehicles may be in your blind spot.
  • Turn on your left signal light.
  • Before you attempt to pass, check again that there is no oncoming traffic and that you can complete the pass while it is still permitted.
  • It is illegal to exceed the speed limit when passing another vehicle.
  • Once the vehicle you have passed is visible in your inside rear view mirror, do a shoulder check to the right.
  • Turn on your right signal light.
  • Return to your original lane while maintaining your speed.
  • Ensure your signal light is turned off.

When being passed on a 2-lane highway, help the driver passing you by staying in your lane. Move to the right side of your lane to give the other driver a better view of the road ahead.

Passing on a two lane highway
Passing on a 2-lane highway.

When is it illegal to pass another vehicle?

Do not pass when:

  • oncoming vehicles are too close. If you have any doubts about safely completing the pass, do not attempt to pass
  • a solid yellow line is on your side of the centre line
  • a sign indicates a no passing zone
  • you are in a school or playground zone during school or playground zone times
  • another vehicle is stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross at a marked or unmarked crosswalk
  • a school bus has flashing red lights and the stop arm extended indicating the school bus has stopped. (It is not the safest choice to pass a school bus that has flashing amber lights, indicating that it is reducing speed, because it may be stopping to allow passengers on and off the school bus. If you do proceed, do it with caution.)
  • Highways and Freeways
  • Passing