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Passing on the Right: Is it Illegal in Virginia?

If you’ve ever been stuck behind a slower driver on I-81, you’ve probably taken the chance to swing over and speed past them on the right. But had you ever questioned if it was legal? When it comes to passing on the multi-lane highways winding through Virginia’s landscapes, the law has some nuances. 

Passing on the right is not inherently prohibited, but it comes with critical restrictions that motorists need to understand to avoid both traffic infractions and accidents. This article provides clarity on Virginia’s regulations for correct passing practices from Richmond car accident lawyers at the Pendleton Law Team.

We outline when right-side overtaking is permissible, prohibited scenarios, proper procedures, associated risks, and consequences for violations. Arm yourself with knowledge before pulling any risky moves. Passing on the right has its place when done right. A wise driver knows when to stay put and when the law gives the green flag to make your move.

Is Passing On the Right Illegal in Virginia?

No, Virginia law does not outright prohibit passing on the right. It is legal in certain circumstances, although the Code does state that passing on the left is the standard procedure drivers should follow when possible (VA Code § 46.2-842). Passing on the right is more tightly regulated than the left.

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In What Situations Can You Legally Pass On the Right in Virginia?

Drivers can legally pass on the right when traveling on Virginia roadways with multiple lanes traveling in the same direction. Multi-lane highways permit right-side passing, given slower traffic keeps right. Passing on the right is also allowed when approaching an intersection where vehicles are entering/turning left or when space is clear to the right of backed-up left-turning cars, according to Virginia’s driving manual.

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When Does Passing On the Right Become Illegal in Virginia?

In Virginia, passing on the right is prohibited when crossing the center lane or shoulder to pass. You cannot use an exit ramp, shoulder, or lane designated for parking or turning to pass on the combined highway/intersection space. 

If you are on a two-lane highway, passing is only permitted on the left. Passing multiple cars at once on the right is also illegal. 

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What Are the Penalties for Illegal Passing On the Right in Virginia?

Illegally passing on the right in Virginia is a traffic infraction carrying a fine of up to $250 under Virginia law. It results in three demerit points added to your DMV record. No jail time applies for a first offense, although license suspension is possible for egregious cases with injuries.

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How Can You Safely Pass on the Right in Virginia?

Safety begins with educating yourself about Virginia’s traffic violations. It’s best to stick to marked lanes, use turn signals, check mirrors and blind spots, pass one vehicle at a time, and avoid congested areas. Be highly visible and leave ample clearance. Pass smoothly at safe speeds. Do not cut drivers off while merging back right.

When Should You Avoid Passing on the Right in Virginia?

Avoid passing on the right in exit areas, intersections, construction zones, or whenever road markings prohibit it. Overtaking large trucks with limited visibility on the right poses hazards. Passing on the right in Virginia may be permitted at certain times but is riskier at night or in bad weather when visibility is compromised.

What Roads in Virginia Prohibit Passing On the Right?

Some roads, like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, specifically forbid passing on the right via posted signs. Virginia highway minimum speed limits generally require vehicles to maintain no less than 45 mph, preventing right-side passing.

Could Passing On the Right Cause an Accident in Virginia?

Yes, attempted passing on the right that crosses lanes unsafely or cuts off other vehicles can lead to sideswipe, rear-end, or angle collisions. Congested exit areas increase crash risks for improper right-side passing. This is why, in some instances, passing on the right is illegal in Virginia. Always pass with extreme care and caution under permitted conditions.

What Is the Law on Passing on the Shoulder in Virginia?

Virginia law prohibits passing vehicles on the shoulder, median, or off the paved roadway. The shoulder is for stopping only, not continuing travel or passing on. Exceptions found in VA Code § 46.2-829 include avoiding hazards directed by officials, bikers/pedestrians present. 

How Does Virginia Law Compare to Other States On Passing On the Right?

Even though passing on the right is legal in Virginia in certain circumstances, Virginia follows the Uniform Vehicle Code standard, which permits right-side passing on multi-lane roads flowing in the same direction. This is the majority approach, followed by 39 states. But some states, like Kansas, prohibit passing on the right entirely, while others have varying restrictions.

What to Do if Pulled Over for Passing on the Right in Virginia

Staying calm and knowing how to assert your rights professionally are key. Our traffic attorneys at the Pendleton Law Team can then evaluate any defense options against improper passing charges. If you were pulled over for passing on the right in Virginia and are questioning the legality of your ticket, we recommend that you take the following actions:

  1. Pull over safely at the first opportunity once lights and sirens signal you to stop. Activate your turn signal, slow down gradually, and move to the right shoulder.
  2. Remain calm and turn off your vehicle. Keep your hands on the wheel until the officer instructs otherwise. Avoid sudden movements that could alarm the officer.
  3. Cooperate fully by providing your driver’s license, registration, and insurance when requested, but avoid admitting fault or discussing details of the suspected infraction.
  4. Politely ask if you are being detained or are free to leave. If detained, state you wish to remain silent and will answer questions only through an attorney.
  5. Do not debate the reason for the stop with the officer at the roadside, even if you feel wrongly accused. You will have the chance to present your side later.
  6. If issued a ticket, carefully review the citation before signing. Do not admit guilt by signing. Your signature is only acknowledging receipt.
  7. Contact a Virginia traffic lawyer immediately if charged so they can proactively request evidence like dash cam footage before it is destroyed.
  8. Consider gathering evidence yourself, like dash cam video, GPS records or locator maps of where the incident occurred, and eyewitness info if available.

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