Safety & Accident

Fleet Safety Video Tip: Passing on a Two-Lane Roadway

May 15, 2015

VIDEO: How to Determine When It's Safe to Pass

When drivers are running late, getting stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle can be a frustrating experience. But they can’t let that sense of frustration cloud their judgment if they decide to pass the vehicle, especially while traveling on a two-lane road.

Passing another vehicle on a two-lane road or highway is a potentially dangerous maneuver that requires a driver’s full attention and sound judgment. The driver must determine whether there’s enough space to pass safely, and the human eye can have difficulty judging the speed of oncoming vehicles.

Here are some tips from the Iowa Department of Transportation you can share with fleet drivers:

  • Make sure signs or road markings permit you to pass. Click here for road marking details. 
  • As a general rule, only pass one vehicle at a time.
  • At a speed of 55 mph, you need about 10 seconds to pass. That means you need a 10-second gap in oncoming traffic and enough sight distance to pass. You must judge whether you have enough space to pass safely. At 55 mph, you will travel more than 800 feet in 10 seconds. So will an oncoming vehicle. That means you need over 1,600 feet, or about one-third of a mile, to pass safely. It’s hard to judge the speed of oncoming vehicles at this distance. They don’t seem to be coming as fast as they really are. A vehicle that's far enough away generally appears to be standing still. In fact, if you can really see it coming closer, it may be too close for you to execute the pass. Always wait to pass until you're sure there’s enough space.
  • Any time your view is blocked by a curve or hill, you should assume that there's an oncoming vehicle just out of sight. Therefore, you should treat a curve or a hill as you would an oncoming vehicle. Never start to pass if you're within one-third of a mile of a hill or curve.
  • Before you pass, look ahead for road conditions and traffic that may cause other vehicles to move into your lane. For example: people or bicyclists near the road, a narrow bridge, a patch of ice or a pothole.
  • Never pass where a vehicle is likely to enter or cross the road. For example: intersections, railroad crossings and shopping center entrances.
  • Never pass unless you have enough space to return to the driving lane. Don’t count on other drivers to make room for you.
  • Before passing, check traffic ahead and behind, including your blind spot. Move slightly left to see if there is any oncoming traffic. Be ready to pull back into your own lane without passing if there's oncoming traffic.
  • If the way ahead is clear, then signal left. Move left of center and accelerate around the vehicle you're passing. However, don’t exceed the posted speed limit. If you have to speed to pass, you probably don’t need to pass.
  • When you see the headlights of the vehicle you just passed in your rearview mirror, signal right, check behind again and then pull back into the right lane.

Never pass when:

  • You’re coming to the top of a hill
  • You’re going around a curve when your view along the highway is obstructed
  • You’re within 100 feet of a narrow bridge, viaduct or tunnel that has a sign posted to let you know it’s there
  • You’re within 100 feet of an intersection or railroad crossing
  • You must go off the pavement or onto the shoulder of the road while passing
  • There's a stopped school bus in your lane or the oncoming lane, or there's a school bus with its red or amber warning lights flashing or its stop arm out
  • Oncoming traffic is so close it would be dangerous to try to make it around the vehicle you hope to pass.

To view a video from DefensiveDriving.com that offers safety tips on passing, you can click on the link or photo below the headline. 

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