Safe Passing

How many times have you passed or been passed by another driver in a hurry, only to end up together again at the next intersection or next town even? Every pass carries a risk with potentially minimal returns, so refraining from them unless they are necessary and justified is good practice.

At highway speeds, you can cover 1,500 feet during a single pass. To make a safe passing, you need to have excellent visual range, and seeing this far ahead is rarely an option on most roads. Add to this the fact that oncoming vehicles are probably closing in at matching or higher speeds, and what this means is that you really need to consider if you need to pass. While your speed may vary slightly while passing, the closing or joint speed for yours and the oncoming vehicle is much greater, and will cover the same distance in considerably less time.

How fast is the car you want to pass going? Is it unacceptable or unsafe? If you cannot reasonably argue this is the case, do not pass. Instead, match their speed, and keep a safe distance of 3 to 4 seconds.

In some cases, for example, when the vehicle in front is a bicycle, a road service vehicle or a vehicle slowing down to make a turn, you may need to pass if it is safe. If you decide to pass, here are some tips:

  • First make sure passing is allowed on that stretch of road. There will sometimes be clear signs that passing is not allowed, like solid yellow stripes on the pavement or “do not pass” signs. But other times you will be expected to self-regulate, for example, near the crest of a hill, near bridges, tunnels and viaducts, close to curves, intersections, and pedestrian crossings.
  • When passing, make sure you can see well ahead, but also behind you and to the sides of your vehicle. Check your blind spot to ensure someone else is not passing you. Throughout, keep in mind the surrounding traffic and environment, watching out for pedestrians, other vehicles at intersections, or smaller vehicles that may be more difficult to spot.
  • Signal your intention to overtake with a left-turn signal before you start to pass.
  • Do not get too close to the vehicle in front - tailgating is never safe and it significantly reduces your perception of what is ahead in passing.
  • Do not speed. If passing the vehicle in front can only be done by you speeding, then passing is not needed in the first place. Do not let your impatience endanger you and others around you.
  • Once you have overtaken the vehicle, use your right-turn signal to indicate you will be returning to the original lane. Give the other driver enough space. Return to your lane only once you can see the car’s wheels on the pavement.
  • If another vehicle want to pass you, do not speed up to prevent it from doing so. Doing so is illegal and causes unnecessary frustration. When another car wants to overtake you, drive slightly to the right of your lane and be alert for any oncoming traffic.

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