Chapter 5

Safe passing requires rapid decision-making and good judgment. Passing other vehicles on the road is an often dangerous maneuver. Visibility and vehicle responsiveness, among other things, are essential. The following should be observed:

A. It is unsafe and against the law for any vehicle to pass another vehicle when the view is obstructed within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel or approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing. A vehicle may pass on the right side if the vehicle to be passed is making or about to make a left turn, upon a highway, within a business or residential district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lanes of moving vehicles in the direction of travel, or on a one-way street. In no instance should a vehicle be driven off the paved or main roadway. The following are a few other passing laws that you need to know.

  1. Passing is legal whenever there is a broken line on your side of the road or when there is a single white broken line in the middle of a two-lane road.
  2. You may only use a passing lane when the maneuver is perceived as safe and prudent and can be completed without use of excessive speed. The pass must be completed within a reasonable amount of time, and you cannot exceed the speed limit.

B. Fatal accidents often occur when passing is attempted on a mountain road. It is against the law to pass to the left on a mountain, when approaching or upon the crest of a grade or curve of a highway or where the driver's view is obstructed within such distance as to create a hazard in the event another vehicle might approach from the opposite direction. Additionally, no vehicle shall pass another vehicle on a grade unless the passing vehicle is traveling at least 10 mph faster than the overtaken vehicle (without exceeding the speed limit), or unless the maneuver can be completed in a distance not greater than 1/4 of a mile. When driving on mountain roads, be aware of the potential for vehicle overheating or brake failure, the need for proper gear choices, and the need for lower speeds. When driving at high altitudes, a vehicle is prone to overheating and vapor lock. NOTE: If a vehicle proceeding down a mountain road were to conflict with a vehicle heading up a mountain road, the vehicle heading up the mountain would have the right-of-way. It is often safer to back up a mountain road than to back down.

Remember these passing tips:

3. When passing is prohibited or especially dangerous...

Special Note...If you are being passed, don't insist on taking the right-of-way. Allow the other driver to pass and use common sense.


Trucks are powerful and heavy, often weighing four to five times that of a typical car when unloaded. They are involved in many traffic crashes even though they are equipped with up to eight mirrors. Motor vehicle operators lack a general respect for trucks, often tailgating them or becoming caught between the truck and the curb. Studies have shown that a tractor-trailer truck traveling at 55 mph will typically need twice the stopping distance of an automobile traveling at the same speed. Special care must be given when driving near trucks on the freeway. Trucks should be given extra clearance whenever possible, and you should always leave an escape option on the road. You must be aware of a truck's blind spots at all times, realizing a truck's rear-view and side mirrors are not always sufficient. Common blind spots for a truck driver exist near the right front wheel of the truck and within 30 ft. of the rear of the trailer. As a result, you should never tailgate, pass to the right, cut in front, or drive parallel to a truck for any length of time.

Truck Tips:

SMART RULE #1...If you cannot clearly see the truck’s side view mirrors,
the truck driver probably cannot see you!

Some typical problems involving trucks include:

A. Trucks making wide turns account for many accidents as cars are often sandwiched between the truck and curb. You must respect the wide turns required by trucks.

Trucks are rarely allowed to travel over 55 mph, and they usually stay in slower traffic lanes. The higher the truck's weight and the higher the truck's speed, the longer the stopping distance.

C. Slow trucks often carry full loads of cargo and lack the power to keep up with the flow of traffic. You should never tailgate a truck, but simply change lanes when safe to do so.

Truck Statistics

1. In 2005, there were 4,932 trucks involved in fatal collisions.

2. Tractor-semi trailers accounted for more than 60% of the trucks involved in fatal collisions, and approximately 26% of the cases involved straight trucks with no trailers.

3. In 2005, 803 occupants of large trucks were killed in traffic collisions, representing 15% of all truck-involved fatalities.

4. Non-truck drivers accounted for 3,944 fatalities in 2005.

5. Trucks can outweigh passenger vehicles by up to forty times, and for this reason the change in velocity is almost always sustained by the passenger vehicle.

6. Approximately 9% of fatalities in truck crashes were pedestrians or bicyclists in 2005.

Car Maintenance

A. Preventative Maintenance - A vehicle should always be in good working order. Preventative maintenance should provide for less unexpected mechanical failures. Quick reaction time is useless if the vehicle cannot respond due to poor maintenance. A proper maintenance time table should be followed, with brakes and tires the primary focus. In addition, check and replace worn or cracked belts and hoses. An emergency such as a blowout, car stall, or brake failure can often be avoided if the car is properly maintained.

B. Tire Maintenance - Accident avoidance and emergency driving techniques don't just rely on quick reactions or skill behind the wheel. An important element, as stressed numerous times throughout this curriculum, is properly maintaining all essential vehicle control mechanisms. The tires, in particular, are the vehicle's connection to the surface. Driving on balding tires or those without any tread whatsoever would be analogous to a person attempting to walk on ice. The task is both difficult and dangerous. You must keep your tires rotated and inflated to their manufacturer's suggested levels, ensure that there is adequate and sufficient tread, and periodically check the tires for distress. These precautions will allow your tires to wear evenly, stick to the road better, and corner better in snow, rain, and ice conditions.