Headlines are filled with reports of drivers involved in deadly crashes while passing another vehicle. Drivers who grow impatient with a slower vehicle ahead often attempt to pass without waiting for optimal passing conditions and this can lead to tragic consequences. Even when it is done correctly, passing is one of the most dangerous maneuvers performed by drivers. Passing requires cooperation by both the driver of the vehicle being passed and the driver who is passing. Here are a few driving tips that, when followed correctly, will help ensure safe passing.
Passing requires that you ask yourself three questions:
Am I going far enough to justify passing? – How many times has a vehicle passed you only to slow down for a turn just after passing? If you are going to turn soon, make sure that, if you pass, you have enough room to pass and put enough distance between you and the car you just passed so that he won’t have to slow or stop for you. If you don’t have enough room, waiting will only cost you a few seconds.
Is the car ahead going slow enough to justify passing? – Many people are surprised when they find themselves getting a speeding ticket while passing. You are not allowed to exceed the speed limit while passing so the car ahead must be going slow enough that you can perform a passing maneuver without speeding and get back into your lane safely. We should take a moment here to discuss fast lanes and passing lanes. There is no such thing as a fast lane on multi-lane highways; there are only passing lanes. No one is allowed to speed while passing.
Is there enough clear space for me to pass? – You must be able to pass at the speed limit and have enough clear space between you and any oncoming traffic to return safely to your lane.
Most passing maneuvers take place on two-lane roads. While many people believe that interstates and multi-lane highways with their high speeds are the most dangerous types of roads two-lane country roads are actually the most deadly type of road you can drive on. The curves, hills, and slower traffic on these roads along with a lack of passing zones often leads to the temptation to pass when it is most dangerous. No passing zones (either double solid lines or a solid line on your side of the lane) are there for a reason. They normally precede a curve, or a hill where oncoming traffic isn’t visible or a bridge where there is no room for escape. Sometimes these roads are provided with temporary passing lanes. Most often they are not.
If you are driving slowly on this type of road and traffic is building up behind you, find a place where you can pull over to allow other traffic to pass. If a vehicle attempts to pass you, slow and pull over as far to the right as possible to give the other driver safe passing room. Never speed up while another driver is passing. If you see that the other driver is in trouble, slow and give him room to reenter the lane. If the road you are on provides passing lanes, move to the right and slow to allow as many drivers as possible to safely pass you.
If you are stuck behind a slow driver, be patient. If the road you are on provides passing lanes, wait until you reach a passing lane before you pass. If there are no passing lanes, wait until you are in a passing zone as signified by the lane markers and make sure there is enough room to pass safely without encountering traffic in the oncoming lane. Before you pass, check for traffic behind to make sure no one else is attempting to pass. Check your blind spots by turning your chin to your shoulder for other traffic that may be passing you. Flash your headlights and give a light tap on your horn to signal that you are about to pass.
Once you pass another vehicle, make sure there is enough clear space between you and the vehicle you just passed before returning to your lane. The best way to do this is wait until you can see the other vehicle’s headlights in your inside rearview mirror.
When passing trucks and other large vehicles, remember that these types of vehicles have large blind spots. Don’t take too long to pass because you may be in the blind spot and the other driver won’t know you are there. Also remember that, if you are going downhill, the large vehicle will be going faster and it will take you longer to pass. Never pull sharply in front of a large vehicle when returning to your lane. The number one complaint of truck drivers is vehicles pulling abruptly in front of them forcing them to hit their brakes. A truck weighing 80,000 pounds can’t stop quickly and in a conflict between a car and a truck, the truck normally wins.