Safely Passing Other Vehicles: Five Questions You Should Ask
Even if you’re a slow and steady driver, you will likely need to pass another car from time to time. Passing is a common practice, and knowing how to do it safely and correctly is a big part of responsible driving. Unfortunately, many drivers are in too much of a hurry and make careless choices while passing, leading to terrible head-on collisions and even death. Never attempt to pass on a blind curve, a hill or any other situation that may make it more difficult to see oncoming traffic. Many people have died due to making such careless decisions.
1. Is it Legal to Pass?
When deciding to pass, you need to carefully analyze the situation, starting with whether or not passing is legal in the area you are driving. If you see a double-yellow line dividing the road, then you cannot pass. If you see a double-yellow line that is broken on the side of the opposing lane, then you cannot pass. You can only pass if you see a double-yellow line that is broken on the side of your lane, a single-yellow line or a special passing lane. Also, keep an eye on nearby road signs, as they are the ultimate indicator of whether or not passing is allowed.
2. Will You Have Enough Time?
Your next step before deciding to pass is to check for oncoming traffic. There is much debate over how far away an oncoming car must be in order to ensure a safe passing window, but in general, if you can see the car approaching, you don’t have enough time to pass. It’s very easy to misjudge the speed of an oncoming car, and this error could potentially be fatal. When in doubt, choose to remain where you are.
3. Is Another Car Trying to Pass You?
If you’re stuck in a line of traffic behind a slow-moving vehicle, you’re likely not the only person who is growing impatient. In this situation, it’s important to keep an eye on your rear-view mirror to make sure that no one is attempting to pull around you from behind. Always let your turn signal flash for a few moments before merging into the other lane. This will help alert the drivers behind you of your plans.
4. How Fast Are You Going?
If you’re already going the speed limit, you probably shouldn’t be attempting to pass another car. Even if you’re going a bit under the speed limit, you shouldn’t pass unless you can do so without speeding.
5. Can You Safely Merge Back Into Your Lane?
After you move ahead of the vehicle you were attempting to pass, you need to safely merge back in. Don’t assume that the area in front of the slow vehicle is free and clear, especially if the vehicle is large enough to partially obstruct your view. Always check your mirror, look over your shoulder and use your turn signal before making your move.
If you’re a new driver, passing may make you a bit nervous. This is normal, and you should keep in mind that you’re never required to pass if you don’t feel comfortable. You can always take a different route to get to your destination, or simply enjoy the slow and leisurely ride. Not only will traveling at a slower pace ensure a higher level of safety, but it will also increase your fuel mileage.