Is Passing on the Right Illegal in Virginia?

Is Passing on the Right Illegal in Virginia?Several states across America do not allow drivers to pass on the right. The reason for this is because passing on the right increases your chances of being in an accident as you might be in the blind spot of the vehicle next to you.

That is why most drivers use the left lane, or the “fast” lane, to pass other vehicles. However, Virginia’s laws are a little more lenient when it comes to passing on the right, giving drivers three options to pass on the right when needed in the hopes that it can avoid a car accident.

When can drivers pass on the right in Richmond?

According to Virginia Code § 46.2-841, there are three different scenarios in which drivers are allowed to pass on the right:

  1. When the vehicle has a left turn signal on and is about to make a left-hand turn: When drivers are about to make a left turn, they must wait for oncoming traffic to go by. This can cause the driver to sit for a few minutes, waiting for their pathway to become completely clear. Therefore, in order to avoid being stuck behind the driver waiting to turn left, you are legally allowed to pass them on the right. However, do not forget to use your turn signal to show other drivers that you are getting in the right lane to go around the left-turning vehicle.
  2. When on a highway that consists of at least two lanes: Driving on a highway with at least two lanes in each direction gives you the opportunity to pass on the right. However, the law specifically states that the highway must be completely unobstructed. This means that you cannot pass on the right if you see vehicles stopped or parked, construction work, emergency vehicles (ambulance, firetruck, or police vehicles), or anything else that would make passing on the right dangerous.
  3. When driving on a one-way street: Lastly, you are legally allowed to pass drivers on the right when driving on a one-way street. However, similar to the highway rule, you can only do so if there are at least two lanes for two vehicles driving in the same direction and the roadway is completely unobstructed.

Why it’s “better” to pass on the left

Passing on the left is almost always recommended for drivers in Richmond and other cities throughout Virginia. First, most drivers expect you to pass on the left, regardless of which state or commonwealth they are from. Passing on the right, therefore, can potentially startle drivers who believe they are following the rules by traveling less quickly in the right-hand lane.

Second, most– though not all – exits and entrances to highways are located on the right. This accounts for a lot of changes in speed for drivers in that lane. The left lane, however, typically moves at a set pace, which means you have less of a risk of being cut off or having to hit your brakes if you’re traveling in the left lane to pass another vehicle.

Finally, there is some anecdotal evidence that, given the placement of the driver’s seat in an American vehicle, it is easier for other drivers to see you if you pass on the left than on the right. This may be because the left blind post on most vehicles (including semi-trucks, SUVs, and sedans) is smaller than the blind spot on the right.

What happens if I am caught illegally passing on the right?

If you are caught illegally passing on the right, you can be pulled over by law enforcement and handed a ticket for aggressive driving, which is usually a Class 2 misdemeanor. As a result, you may be sentenced to six months in jail and pay a fine of $1,000. “However, aggressive driving with the intent to injure another person shall be punished as a Class 1 misdemeanor. In addition to the penalties described in this subsection, the court may require successful completion of an aggressive driving program.”  This could result in a fine of $2,500 and a one-year jail sentence.

Is blocking the left lane allowed in Virginia?

Blocking the left lane is not allowed. Virginia Code § 46.2-804 explains that the left lane is specifically for drivers who want to pass or overtake other vehicles, while the right lane is specifically for drivers who want to move slow or drive “less than the normal speed.” Therefore, if a slow driver remains in the left lane and does not move over when it is safe to do so, they are acting illegally and can receive a citation for blocking the left lane. This may result in a $100 fine.

If you were recently injured by a driver who illegally passed you on the right, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Richmond car accident attorneys at Phelan Petty Injury Lawyers. We will listen to your experience, help you prove the driver’s negligence caused your injuries, and stand up and fight for your rights. Our team believes in holding negligent drivers accountable for their careless and reckless behaviors, which is why we will do everything we possibly can to assist you with obtaining the compensation you need to get your life back on track. Call our Richmond office or submit our contact form to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today. We proudly serve clients throughout Virginia.