There are many driving skills that experienced drivers don’t even realize are incredibly complex, because they’ve become second nature over time. Additionally, some driving maneuvers come with a number of rules that are so ingrained in experienced drivers that you may forget to explain them to new drivers. Do you ever think about how many rules are integral to passing while you’re driving? Likely not, so keep that in mind when you’re helping your new teen drive learn how to drive.
The rules of passing. The first step in learning to pass another car while you’re driving is learning when it’s legal to do so. Some lanes are divided by single lines, and others are divided by double lines. Single lines indicate that the rule applies to both sides of the lane being divided, while double lines indicate that the rule for each lane may be different, and the line closest to each lane dictates the rule for that lane. When a line is dashed, it means that passing is allowed. When a line is solid, it means that passing is not allowed.
Multiple lanes traveling in the same direction. On main roads and highways that have more than one lane of traffic traveling in the same direction, each lane is often separated by a single dashed line. This indicates that cars are allowed to pass in either direction between lanes. Some highways have high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, which are reserved for cars with more than two passengers as a fast-pass-type incentive to get commuters to carpool. These lanes are only accessible at certain points, and are separated from the rest of the highway by thick sections of diagonal lines. Sections of diagonal lines mean “no cars allowed,” and are used in the separation of HOV lanes to emphasize that passing is absolutely not allowed. In areas where cars are allowed to exit/enter the HOV lane, the dividing line becomes a double line, and one side is solid and one side is dashed, indicating the direction that passing is allowed (either exiting or entering the lane, but not both).
Two lanes traveling in opposite directions. In many rural areas, roadways only have one lane that travels in each direction. It is often legal to pass cars ahead of you by briefly entering the lane of oncoming traffic, but only when it is safe to do so and you must always yield to oncoming traffic (that means that oncoming traffic always has the right-of-way, so you need to wait until all oncoming traffic has passed before you can enter that lane). When it is legal to pass into the oncoming lane, the lanes are divided by a single, dashed line. Driving in instances like this are prime examples of why it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings, because when distance sight is limited (e.g. around curves in the road), the dividing line will change to either a double solid line, which indicates no passing from either direction, or one solid line and one dashed line, which indicates that passing is only permitted from one direction.
The act of passing. Now that you understand all the rules, it’s time to actually pass the car ahead of you. Firstly, you need to look ahead to make sure that you have plenty of room to pass. Next, check your mirrors and blind spot, to make sure that there isn’t a car in the lane next to you that you hadn’t noticed. Turn your signal on to indicate to the cars around you that you’ll be changing lanes, and increase your speed to at least 10mph faster than the car you’re passing (but don’t exceed the speed limit!). Transition into the passing lane smoothly, and once you’re fully in the passing lane turn your signal back to the opposite direction. Check your rearview mirror to make sure you can see the headlights of the car you just passed, and when you can, it’s safe to return to that lane. Turn your signal off once you’re back in the lane you started, and return to your normal speed. Lastly, check your rearview mirror to make sure you’re a good distance from the car that is now behind you.