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When Is It Safe To Pass Another Vehicle?

August 13, 2014 | Category: Automobile Accidents | Share

When is it safe to pass another vehicle - Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.Safe lane changes are a vital skill for all drivers. Many serious accidents occur when drivers switch lanes without regard to other traffic or road conditions. Over 200 thousand traffic crashes occur in Florida each year, an average of 625 per day. According to statistics, close to 10% of all roadway accidents are due to illegal or improper lane changes. According to the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) 2013 Performance Report, approximately 55% of all traffic fatalities involved lane departures.

The law requires that motorists drive on the right side of the road. When allowed to pass other vehicles, motorists usually pass on the left. Drivers are permitted to pass on the right only in certain circumstances, and it must be done only when necessary and safe.

Florida S316.083 states that when overtaking and passing a vehicle proceeding in the same direction that:

(1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall give an appropriate signal as provided for in s. 316.156, shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.

(2) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle, on audible signal or upon the visible blinking of the headlamps of the overtaking vehicle if such overtaking is being attempted at nighttime, and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

(3) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.


Safe passing depends mainly on knowing three things: when to pass, when not to pass, and how to pass. Drivers cannot pass safely unless they can see far enough ahead to be sure that they can get back in line before they meet any traffic coming from the opposite direction. Drivers must also be able to get back into line before meeting any traffic crossing or turning onto the road on which the driver is driving.  

When preparing to change lanes, never rely on your mirrors alone. Even properly adjusted mirrors will leave "blind spots" behind and on both sides. If a vehicle is in the blind spot, it cannot be seen in a vehicle's mirrors. Drivers need to always glance over the left shoulder before changing lanes or passing.

Also, Florida law, as stated above, requires that drivers give "an appropriate signal" when changing lanes. The appropriate signal is the use of turn signals. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) reported that drivers either neglected to use their signals when changing lanes, or failed to turn the signals off, 48% of the time.  SAE reports that that works out to 2 billion times a day drivers fail to use signals, or 750 billion times annually.  

There are some situations where passing is always dangerous and/or unlawful.  These are:

  • Where you see a "DO NOT PASS" or "NO PASSING ZONE" signs.
  • Whenever there is a single or double solid yellow line between your lanes or when your lane’s side of a double line is solid
  • On any hill or curve where you cannot see at least 500 feet ahead.
  • At intersections and railway crossings.
  • Whenever a stopped school bus has its warning flashers on.
  • At crosswalks where a vehicle has stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross.

            (Source: Florida Driver's Handbook  )

When a motorist has decided it is both safe and legal to pass, he/she should adhere to the following recommendations from

  1. Maintain a safe following distance. Following too closely could result in a rear-end collision.
  2. Check for oncoming traffic. Be certain you have enough time and space to pass safely.
  3. Check your mirrors. Be certain other motorists are not intending to pass you before you change lanes to pass.
  4. Check your blind spots. Make sure there are no vehicles traveling in your blind spot before you change lanes.
  5. Signal your intention. Let other motorists know you intend to pass by signaling well in advance.
  6. Increase your speed to pass. Remember, passing is not an excuse to exceed the posted speed limit.
  7. Watch the vehicle you are passing. Make certain the other driver knows you are passing.
  8. Activate your right turn signal. Let the driver you are passing and other traffic know you plan to move back into the right lane.
  9. Change lanes and maintain your speed.
  10. Cancel your turn signal. 

"Many accidents happen when vehicles pass at the wrong time.  Knowing when to pass prevents injuries and deaths," says Collier County Accident Attorney Randall Spivey of Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.


Collier County Accident Attorney,  Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys.  He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida.  For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to Visit for more information.  You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.


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