A driver’s guide for passing and slow-moving vehicles

Jul 26, 2022, 6:25 AM


(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Slow-moving vehicles and risky passers, they can be a deadly combination on our one-lane highways around the state. With about a month left in the summer driving season, it’s time for a good reminder of the rules.

I travel Highway 101 a lot, going from Puget Sound to the Long Beach Peninsula. I’ve seen some pretty hairy situations, near-misses, and the aftermath of head-on collisions. I’ve been frustrated at the wheel while behind slow-moving trucks and trailers, and I have even passed two cars at once going well over the speed limit.

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I never pass against the lane striping because I know that is just too risky, but I see that move from other drivers on almost every trip. State Trooper Gil Vandenkooy said those moves usually don’t end well.

“You’re coming up on a blind curve or a crest of a hill those are the times you don’t want to pass because you have no idea what’s presented on the other side of that hill, coming around the curve or what may or may not be coming at you, maybe at the same or higher rate,” he said. “You just don’t know.”

And it’s not just the on-coming traffic you have to worry about. You can simply lose it while going too fast and run off into the shoulder and hit a tree. Vandenkooy has this to say about trees: “Trees don’t move, ever,” he said. “You hit a tree on the side of the shoulder, even a little small diameter tree, you’re not moving that tree.”

So what are the rules of the road?

Let’s start with the slow-moving vehicle law.

“A slow-moving vehicle behind which five or more vehicles are formed in a line shall turn off the roadway where there is a sufficient area for a safe turnout or exit in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed,” Vandenkooy said.

It’s up to the driver of that slow-moving vehicle to realize there is a line forming behind and find a safe place to pull over to the side, but those following drivers recognize that not every shoulder is the right place or the slow-moving driver might not feel safe pulling off there. Both drivers need to be aware and courteous.

I know many of us have been in that trailing position, which leads me to the passing law. You need to wait until it is legal and safe to pass. You also shouldn’t be passing vehicles on two-lane roads which are going the speed limit. “Right now you’re safely in a lane,” Vandenkooy said. “You may be traveling below the posted speed limit. You may even be frustrated, but you’re going to eventually get where you’re going safely. You pass a car traveling at that rate of speed you’re just not going to survive it.”

And for those drivers being passed, please do not speed up to close the gap in front of you and make it more difficult for the passing driver to get back into the lane. All that does is limit your space to brake when the other driver pulls back in. That puts you at risk of an accident. Passing drivers, only pass when there is room to get back in. Don’t cram your way in and then jam on the brakes. That’s an accident waiting to happen.

“Be a courteous and kind fellow driver out there,” Vandenkooy said. “You have to be considerate of people driving around you. Everybody has the same issue. Get where they want to go as quickly as they can and do their business. Getting there safely is more paramount.”

Most of the deadly accidents on these one-lane roads can be prevented, if drivers just chill out behind the wheel. Let’s have a safe final few weeks of summer.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


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A driver’s guide for passing and slow-moving vehicles