Passing on the Right

No Passing On The RightQuestion: 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 cross walk and people have been crossing and cars go by on the right almost hitting the person in the cross walk.

If There's Room They'll Use it

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.

Rules About Passing on the Right

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.

When You May Pass on the Right

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 permit 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.

What is a 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.

Beware Bicycle Lanes

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.

The Courts

If you are interested in what our provincial courts have to say about passing on the right, here is an analysis by Paul Hergott of Hergott Law.

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I have a concern about this resulting from my driving along the Old Island Highway between Courtenay and Royston. When vehicles are stopped, signalling to make a left turn, many times vehicles pass around the vehicle on the right hand side. To pass on the right of the stopped vehicle means the passing vehicle is going over the solid white line at the right edge onto the shoulder. I must make a left turn onto the road I live on, so many times have encountered vehicles trying to pass on my right. I have made a point of keeping to the right side of the lane to try and prevent vehicles from passing. One day a driver fingered and yelled at me, yet the driver was attempting to do something illegal (even though many drivers perform this illegal act). Also the other day, I was surprised to see a left-turning vehicle pull well over to the center line to allow vehicles to pass on the right, coming close to hitting a vehicle driving in the opposite lane.

I see right side passing on a regular basis outside my window, and see many many very close calls for pedestrians. The cars making the left hand turn often have to wait for pedestrians, and along comes an overtaking car and zips by on the right. At this intersection the solid white (for the bike lane) line becomes broken white line for a bus stop. I believe it should be illegal to make a right side pass at any pedestrian crosswalks, because it is incredibly dangerous. ( I saw 4 right side passes while typing this comment)

Hi I have a question regarding MVA (158) Can you define passing and overtaking on the right, If a vehicle is approaching an intersection with a stop sign and no line indicating 2 lanes although the size of the roadway is sufficiant for two vehicles, and generally at that intersection the vehicles that are taking a left turn move closer to the center of the road (far left) and vehicles turning right move to the curb (Right) to turn right. so if a vehicle approaches an intersection with a stop sign and that vehicle is far left away from the curb and is not signalling (which would indicate that the vehicle may be going stratight through after the stop sign)  or turning left without signalling, does a second vehicle have the right to move to the right side of the roadway closer to the curb to make a stop and a right turn?  and does this define (Passing and overtaking)when the vehicle on the right has not passed or overtaken the other vehicle.

Also if both vehicles are stopped at the intersection for a period of time , say almost 30 seconds does this constitute as a new maneuver, meaning the vehicle on the right has not passed or overtaken the vehicle on the left they have stopped at the stop sign parallel to the other vehicle and are not in the blind spot of the other vehicle.

If the Vehicle on the left now makes a right turn (Without signalling) and after stopping, and hits the other vehicle that is stopped on it's right. which vehicleis liable for the collision.?

Your first two questions can really be answered by the fact that passing or overtaking is accomplished as soon as you start passing by the other vehicle, not after you have completed the act. As with all things in law, if the statute does not define it, and in this case the Motor Vehicle Act does not, you then look to the dictionary for the definition of the word.

Your final question actually has two answers. From the point of view of the Motor Vehicle Act, your hypothetical right turn vehicle would be wrong as you must approach a right turn from as close to the curb or edge of the roadway as practical. From the point of view of civil liability, you may find that one or both drivers could be held liable. I have no training in civil law, so I cannot answer definitively. However, if you read some of the case law articles on this site you will get some idea of how the courts would treat the situation.

The Learn to Drive Smart manual is a bit confusing on this. On page 54 it says:

If you’re planning to pass, make sure you can do it safely and legally:

  • Pass on the right only on a roadway that has two or more lanes, or if a driver ahead is turning left. Do not use the shoulder to pass.
  • Pass on the left only when it is safe to do so and lane markings permit.

If I had never driven before, on reading this, I would think passing on the right is better than passing on the left since that is given as the first point.

Your statement "In general, passing on the right is forbidden in British Columbia." should be the first point imho. What is your opinion?

Best wishes..

I agree with you, the explanation is a bit short on details in the manual. For instance, it does not explain what the shoulder is.

I chose to say that in general passing on the right is forbidden and then explain the exceptions to the rule as it was simpler to do in my view.

You can comment to ICBC on the manual contents. If they feel edits are needed the next edition will be an improved one.