You’re driving along the highway and the person in front of you is moving at the speed of molasses. You check to make sure your environment is safe to pass in, you put your blinker on, and you speed just a little to get around the slowpoke. Before you know it, you’re pulled over for speeding. Or, maybe you’re not. The question of whether or not it’s legal to speed while passing is a lot more ambiguous and complicated than you might expect, so it’s worth knowing as much as you can about the laws in your driving area before heading out on the road.
Before we dig into whether or not you can speed while passing, it’s important to review some basics about how to pass safely. If you fail to take these things into consideration and act accordingly, an officer might pull you over for unsafe passing even if speeding to pass is legal where you are.
First, you should only ever pass on the left. While most laws change depending on locality, this one is pretty universal across the U.S. Never try to pass somebody on the right. If you get caught, you’ll almost certainly get a ticket. When everyone on the road is following the same passing laws, it makes for safer road conditions.
Second, if there is a solid or double yellow line, or if you can’t pass before the solid or double yellow line begins again, then it is illegal for you to pass.
Third, if you’re within 100 feet of a railroad crossing or bridge or you’re behind a bus that is offloading children you absolutely cannot pass.
Finally, use common sense. If you’re going to have to pass a long line of cars, traffic is too close for you to pass and still be safe, you’re approaching the top of a hill and you can’t see what’s over it, the person in front of you is going to turn, or you’d be passing a vehicle on grades, you cannot pass them. Make sure you’re in a safe situation before you pass, otherwise you’ll likely get pulled over for an unsafe pass, regardless of speed.
Assuming you’ve safely passed, are you allowed to speed? Most people on the road who have been driving for any length of time would say yes. It’s widely believed that you’re allowed to surpass the speed limit, within reason, in order to get around a person who is impeding traffic by going too slowly. However, that largely depends on where you’re driving and the whim of the officer who pulls you over.
In Seattle, for instance, there’s language in the law that states you can speed safely in order to pass someone on a two-lane highway in certain conditions, but a similar law that governs the roadways, in general, doesn’t even mention speeding. It only mentions how to safely pass and that you can’t pass over certain types of lines. The result is that whether or not speeding to pass is something you can be ticketed for, at least in Seattle, is largely up to “officer discretion”.
The scary part is, it’s not just Seattle that has this kind of ambiguity written into the law. It’s many, many states, localities, cities, and counties. There’s either no language governing speed while passing at all, or it’s loosely mentioned in certain situations but not in any other part of the law. The result is that you and someone else could speed at exactly the same rate to pass exactly the same car in exactly the same circumstances, and depending on the officer who sees you, one of you could be ticketed and the other could be on their way.
If that sounds unfair to you, you’re not alone. The ambiguity surrounding speed to pass laws is often a point of contention, and it’s important that if you are ticketed for this offense, it’s worth fighting your ticket. A traffic attorney will be able to help you navigate the legal system, present the evidence in a convincing manner, and advocate for you in the face of an ambiguous law.
At Ticket Void, we’ve been working with drivers like you for years. We’re committed to matching you with the best attorney for the job. We have a nationwide network of qualified, experienced attorneys. With just a few pieces of information, we’ll match you with a traffic attorney in your area and send you their information so you can get going right away. The initial consultation is free, so what do you have to lose? Get started today and exercise your right to fight.