How to Change lanes effectively

by | Mar 1, 2020 | Road Sharing

Passing – How to Change Lanes Effectively

Passing is the act of changing lanes to move past a slower vehicle. The question we always ask is “How to change lanes effectively?” While all public roads have speed limits, not all vehicles travel at the same speed. For example, cyclists, road service vehicles and drivers ahead that are preparing to turn are usually slower than the through traffic. You may want to pass some slow-moving vehicles when you are following them.

However, although it is commonly used, passing another vehicle is an extremely dangerous maneuver. Impatience, timing errors, and poor judgment of space when passing often result in disastrous head-on collisions.

The major responsibility for passing safely belongs to the driver who is passing. The driver needs to make the correct decision quickly. So, before you pass a vehicle, ask yourself:

  • Is it legal?
  • Is it safe?
  • Is it worth it?

Every time you pass, you increase your chances of having a collision. This is because whenever you pass another vehicle on a two-lane road, you must enter a lane that belongs to oncoming cars. Avoid passing other vehicles, including motorcycles and bicycles, on two-lane roads; it is dangerous. A safe passing maneuver also depends on your vehicle’s condition, e.g., its acceleration, braking, steering, and other performance capabilities.

In a nutshell, never overtake and pass another vehicle unless you are sure you can do so without danger to yourself or others. If in doubt, do not pass.

A short 2-minute video on the rules of passing.

Safe Following Distances

Stay a safe distance behind the vehicle you want to pass. The closer you get to the vehicle you want to pass, the less you can see ahead. [2]This is especially true when passing trucks, trailers, and other large vehicles. And if the car ahead of you stops quickly, you will need time to see the danger and stop.

The Two-Second Rule

At any speed, you can use the two-second rule to see if you are far enough behind the car in front of you:

  1. Watch the vehicle ahead pass some fixed point, for example, an overpass, sign, fence corner, or another marker.
  2. Count off the seconds it takes you to reach the same spot on the road (“one thousand and one, one thousand and two…”).
  3. If you reach the mark before you finish counting, you are following too closely. Slow down and check your following distance again.

The two-second rule applies to any speed in good weather and road conditions. If road or weather conditions are not good, double your following distance. You should also double your following distance when driving a motorhome or towing a trailer.

Safe Passing Practices

Before you pull out to pass, you must check your blind spots and make sure that you have plenty of time and room to pass. To pass safely, you should also be traveling at least 10 mph faster than the car you want to overtake, as long as you do not exceed the speed limit. [3] This should give you a safe cushion to move back into the lane.

When is Passing Legal?

Florida allows overtaking vehicles on the left provided that the overtaking vehicle properly uses a signal, that there is at least three feet between the passing vehicle and the auto or bicycle being passed and the overtaking vehicle does not exceed the speed limit. [2] Posted signs and/or lane markings let you know when passing is permitted. A broken line on your left indicates that you may cross over into that lane in order to make a pass, even if it is in the left half of a two-lane highway going in opposite directions. The lane must be clearly visible for a distance of at least 10-15 seconds (at least a quarter to a third of a mile), and clear of oncoming vehicles, before you may safely use that lane to overtake and pass the vehicle ahead of you. [3]


On a freeway or multi-lane roadway, you may pass to either the left or right on the right side of the road as long as it can be done safely. You also must give a signal before you begin to pass.


Although you can almost always pass legally on the left in Florida, you may not pass unless the left side is clearly visible and is free from oncoming traffic. After passing, you should return to the proper lane as soon as practicable and in the event that the passing uses a lane authorized for oncoming traffic, you must return to its lane before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle. [3]

When You May Not Pass?

You may not pass in the following situations [4], violators may be arrested or issued a ticket.

  • When the double-sided yellow line is solid in your lane
  • In Do Not Pass and No Passing Zones
  • On hills or curves where you can’t see at least 500 feet ahead
  • Within 100 feet of a bridge, viaduct, tunnel, railroad crossing, or intersection
  • When a school bus is stopped and has its warning flashers on and stop sign extended
  • At crosswalks where a vehicle has stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross

Where there are a single solid line, or double-sided solid line dividing lanes

Passing on the right

Pulling off the roadway to pass on the right is against the law. Passing on the right is only legal when there are two or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction or the vehicle you are passing is making a left turn. [2]


Other Dangerous Passing Situations

  • Passing more than one car at a time– This is a risky move as there are too many unknown factors. It’s safer to wait until it clears. [3]
  • When you do not have a clear view of the road ahead as a result of a curve, crest, or large vehicle – This is dangerous as oncoming vehicle that you can’t see may be right in your path before you can overtake the one just ahead of you
  • When the vehicle in front of you intends to stop or make a turn – This is dangerous since other vehicles may cross your path or stop suddenly.
  • If you are passing a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle, you must give its rider a minimum of three feet of space.

Steps of Successful Passing

How to Change Lanes Effectively

  1. Stay a safe distance behind the vehicle you want to pass—the closer you get, the less you can see ahead. [4]
  2. Before you pull out to pass, check your blind spots and make sure that you have plenty of time and room to pass.
  3. Activate your signal before moving into the left lane to notify all other motorists that you are about to change lanes to pass.
  4. Tap your horn (day) or flash your headlights (night) to let the other driver know you are passing.
  5. Do not return to the right side of the road until you can see the tires of the vehicle you passed in your rear-view mirror. Signal when you are about to return to your lane.
  6. You must return to the right side of the road before coming within 200 feet of any vehicle coming from the opposite direction.

Remember, you should not attempt to pass more than one vehicle at a time as passing multiple vehicles is dangerous. Also, stay within the speed limit. It is not legal to exceed the speed limit while passing.

Being Passed

You must constantly be aware of passing vehicles. [1]Frequently check your mirrors and be aware of the space around you. When a vehicle begins passing, move into the far-right side of the lane to give passing drivers more room and a better view of the road ahead. Remember, you must yield when you are being passed. It’s not a courtesy, it is the law!

When you are being passed, never speed up. [4] Accelerating to prevent the pass is dangerous. If you hear a warning honk from the driver trying to pass, give the right-of-way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle.

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