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How to Safely Pass Another Vehicle on Back Roads

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Two lane road

Photo: Nextvoyage

If you’ve ever driven through the countryside, you’ve probably been stuck behind a not-so-energetic car on a two-lane road (or even worse, farming equipment making its way down the rural roads). Luckily, thanks to safe passing zones, you often have the ability to go around them.

Passing a vehicle on the road causes some people a bit of anxiety; it requires driving on the wrong side of the road toward oncoming traffic. But that’s not so scary, right?

Scared vs. Afraid

Okay, maybe it’s a little scary. But there are steps you can take to make sure you’re passing a vehicle as safely as possible.

Make sure it’s legal

No-passing zones are not there just to make you late for work. If a two-lane road has a double yellow line, don’t even think about trying to pass that John Deere tractor. Those lines indicate that based on the road’s speed limit, you can’t see far enough ahead of you (due to hills or curves) to pass in time. You could start to pass and before you know it, an Escalade comes barreling around the corner and you’re in a head-on collision. Not good.

Speed up

Passing someone on a two-lane road isn’t the same as using the fast lane on the highway. In order to pass someone safely, you need to get around them quickly. Don’t lollygag driving the wrong way on the road. Once you enter the left lane, make your way around them as quickly as possible (without driving recklessly) and get back onto the right side of the road. Keep in mind the other vehicle’s speed; if they are only going 5 mph under the speed limit, you’d have to break the law to pass them — again, not good.

Give them space

For American drivers, it goes completely against our instincts to drive on the left side of the road. But if you’re going to pass a vehicle, you need to commit. If you try to go around someone and you find yourself hugging the yellow line, you may end up running them off the road — not your intention. Make your way over to the other side of the road and stay there until you are a safe distance ahead of the other car.

Don’t cut them off

Once you are ahead of the vehicle, make sure you give them enough space before you merge back into the right lane. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to see the other vehicle’s headlights in your rear view mirror before you change lanes in front of them.

Sources:, Driver’s Education USA