Chapter 6: Passing

chapter 6


Note:  Practice quizzes are available only for those sections of the manual covering rules of the road (Chapters 4 through 11 and Road Signs).

In general, the law requires that we drive on the right side of the road. When passing is allowed, we usually pass other vehicles on the left. Passing on the right is permitted only in limited circumstances, and should be done only when necessary and safe to do so.

When passing other vehicles or changing lanes to avoid hazards, do so with caution and only when necessary. You must not exceed the speed limit to pass another vehicle.

When passing a motorcycle, remember to give the motorcycle the same full lane width as other vehicles are allowed. Never move into the same lane space as a motorcycle, even if the lane is wide and the motorcyclist is riding to one side.

The law requires you to use directional or hand signals at least 100 feet (30 m) before making a lane change. You may never pass a vehicle which has stopped at a crosswalk to allow a pedestrian to cross.


Passing on the Left

The left lane is usually used for passing other vehicles. However, you may not pass a vehicle on the left if:

  • Your lane has a solid yellow center line.

  • You cannot safely return to the right lane before reaching a solid yellow center line for the right lane.

  • You cannot safely return to the right lane before any approaching vehicle comes within 200 feet (60 m) of you.

  • You are approaching a curve or the crest of a hill on a two-way road and cannot see around or over it.

  • You are within 100 feet (30 m) of a railroad crossing on a two-way roadway.

  • You are within 100 feet (30 m) of a bridge, tunnel or viaduct on a two-way road and your view is obstructed.

  • Passing will interfere with oncoming traffic.

If conditions are right for passing, check in your mirrors and signal your lane change. Before pulling into the left lane, glance briefly over your left shoulder, through the rear side window, to make sure no vehicle is passing you or close behind you in the left lane. Never rely on your mirrors alone when preparing to change lanes. Even properly adjusted mirrors will leave "blind spots" behind you on both sides. If a vehicle is in the blind spot, you may not see it in your mirrors. Always glance over your shoulder before changing lanes or passing.

When passing, move completely into the left lane. Before returning to the right lane, signal and look at your interior rearview mirror and make sure you can see the front bumper of the vehicle you just passed. Glance quickly over your right shoulder to double-check that you can see at least several feet of pavement between your vehicle and the one you passed. Then return to the right lane.


Passing on the Right

You should usually pass other vehicles on the left, but passing on the right is allowed in certain situations. You may pass a vehicle on the right only in the situations listed below, and only if you can do so safely. You may not drive on or across the shoulder or edge line of the road unless a sign permits it. You may pass on the right:

  • When a vehicle ahead is making a left turn.

  • When you are driving on a one-way road that is marked for two or more lanes or is wide enough for two or more lanes, and passing is not restricted by signs.

If you are going to pass on the right at an intersection, check traffic ahead carefully. Make sure an oncoming vehicle is not turning left into your path, and watch out at the right side of the road for pedestrians, bicyclists, in-line skaters and moped riders.

Before you pass on the right on multilane roads such as expressways, make sure you check your mirrors, use the proper signals for lane change, and look over your right shoulder for other vehicles. After passing, be sure to check over your left shoulder, and to signal, before returning to the left lane.


Being Passed

If another vehicle passes you on the left, slow down slightly and keep to the right. When the vehicle has safely passed and is well ahead of you, resume your normal speed. If you find that many vehicles are passing you on the right, you should move into the right lane and allow them to pass you on the left.


School Buses

When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic approaching from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots, must stop before reaching the bus. You should stop at least 20 feet (6 m) away from the bus. You can identify this bus by a "SCHOOL BUS" sign, the red lights on top, and its unique yellow/orange color.

Before a school bus stops to load or unload passengers, the driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. When you see them, slow down and be prepared to stop.

Once stopped for a school bus, you may not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or when the bus driver or a traffic officer waves you on. This law applies on all roadways in New York State. You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.

After stopping for a school bus, watch for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until you have passed them.

Safety Tip: Most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur while children are crossing the street after leaving the bus, not in collisions involving school buses.

Keep in mind that vehicles transporting disabled persons may be equipped as school buses, and you must stop for them just as you would for other school buses.

The fine for passing a stopped school bus ranges from a minimum of $250 for a first violation to a maximum of $1,000 for three violations in three years. In addition, if you are convicted of three such violations in three years, your license will be revoked for a minimum of six months.



Before going on to Chapter 7, make sure you can answer these questions:

  • In most situations, on which side should you pass another vehicle going in the same direction?

  • What should you do before passing another vehicle?

  • What should you see in your rearview mirror before attempting to return to the right lane after passing a vehicle on the left?

  • In what situations may you pass a vehicle on the right?

  • When may you pass a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk to allow a pedestrian to cross?

  • What action should you take when another vehicle passes you on the left?

  • What do flashing yellow lights on a school bus mean?

  • What do flashing red lights on a school bus mean? 


End of Chapter 6: check mark Take the Quiz!

< Chapter 5 | Contents | Chapter 7 >


Table of Contents