About driving

Key driving skills

Passing

Many serious crashes on New Zealand roads are caused by dangerous passing.

To safely pass another vehicle, you need to be extremely careful. You need to have a clear view of the road ahead, to make sure you can finish passing safely. You must also pay close attention to the vehicle you are passing, in case it changes its course.

Passing on the right

Passing on the right can be dangerous, especially if you have to:

  • change your path of travel
  • enter a lane or part of the road used by oncoming vehicles.

Before passing, always ask yourself 'is it really necessary to pass?' Don't pass just because you are feeling impatient with the car in front – that's often when crashes happen.

If you do decide to pass, follow the rules shown below.

Before you pass:

  • make sure you will be able to see at least 100 metres of clear road ahead of you once you have finished passing - if not, don't pass
  • look well ahead to make sure there are no vehicles coming towards you
  • look behind to make sure there are no vehicles passing you
  • signal right for at least three seconds before moving out to pass.

Before pulling in front of a vehicle you have passed:

  • make sure you can see the vehicle in your rear view mirror
  • signal left for at least three seconds.
Picture showing a car passing another car on the right

Passing on the right


Important

Take extra care, and leave extra room, when passing cyclists, horses or pedestrians, as the wind gust of your vehicle could affect their balance.

Passing on the left

You can only pass on the left when:

  • there are two or more lanes on your side of the centre line and you are able to pass safely by using the left-hand lane
  • you are directed to by a police officer
  • the vehicle you are passing:
    • has stopped, or
    • is signalling a right turn, or
    • is turning right.

At all other times, when you are passing, you must pass on the right.

Picture of car passing on the left

Passing on the left


Important

Keep a safe distance behind the vehicle you are about to pass. Follow the two-second rule.

If you are being passed by another vehicle:

  • move as far to the left of the road as possible
  • never speed up to stop the other vehicle from passing you.

No-passing line

On some sections of road there will be a solid yellow line painted on your side of the centre line. This line is called a no-passing line.

No-passing lines are usually there because it's unsafe to cross the centre line to pass, because features like hills and curves make it impossible to see if there is oncoming traffic.

Sometimes no-passing lines are marked because:

  • there is already a passing lane on your side of the road and you must use that to pass
  • the road is multi-laned, so you do not need to cross the no-passing line to pass.

You must not pass another vehicle if it means you have to cross over a no-passing line on your side of the centre line.

If you see a dashed yellow line on your side of the centre line, that means that a no-passing line is about to start.

While you may come back over the dashed yellow line to finish passing, you must not cross it to start passing.

Picture of no-passing line

No-passing line

As shown in the picture above:

  • you may come back over the dashed yellow line between A and B to finish passing
  • you must not cross the solid yellow line between C and D.

You can pass at a no-passing line if:

  • you stay on your side of the solid yellow line, and
  • you can see 100 metres of clear road in front of you for the whole time while you are passing, and
  • the lane is wide enough for two vehicles.
Picture of car passing on the right, without crossing the no-passing line Picture of car passing on the right, without crossing the no-passing line

Passing without crossing the no-passing line

Passing on a three-laned road

If there is no solid yellow line on your side of the centre line, you may use the centre lane to pass as long as:

  • there are no vehicles in that lane, and
  • you can see 100 metres of clear road in front of you for the whole time while you are passing.

Don't use the centre lane to pass if there is an oncoming vehicle in the centre lane.

Picture of a car passing on a three-laned road

Passing on a three-lane road

Where you must not pass

Remember, it is against the law to cross over a no-passing line on your side of the centre line to pass another vehicle. But this isn't the only situation where you mustn't pass. This page shows you other situations where passing is both unsafe and illegal.

Don't pass any vehicle that has stopped, or is slowing down, for people on a pedestrian crossing.

Picture of a car incorrectly passing near a pedestrian crossing

Illegal passing near a pedestrian crossing

Don't pass any vehicle when you are coming to a blind corner or curve. (A blind corner or curve is where you can't see what's around the corner.)

Picture of a car incorrectly passing on a curve

Illegal passing on a curve

Don't pass any vehicle when you can't see at least 100 metres of clear road in front of you for the whole time while you are passing.

Picture of a car incorrectly passing without enough clear road ahead

Illegal passing without 100 metres of clear road

Don’t pass any vehicle at an intersection if it means you will cross the centre line. You must not get in the way of:

  • vehicles coming towards you
  • vehicles coming out of side roads.
Picture of a car incorrectly passing at an intersection

Illegal passing at an intersection

Don't pass:

  • any moving vehicle when you are less than 60 metres from a railway level crossing
  • any vehicle that has stopped for a train.
Picture of a car inccorrectly passing near a railway level crossing

Illegal passing near a railway level crossing

Don't pass any vehicle if it means you have to drive over a flush median.

Picture of a car incorrectly passing on a flush median

Illegal passing on a flush median

Passing at an intersection

In some situations, you are allowed to pass another vehicle at an intersection; however, you need to be very careful when doing this.

Passing on the left at an intersection with one lane on your side of the road

In this situation, you can pass on the left if there is enough room in your lane for you to pass and the vehicle you are passing:

  • has stopped, or
  • is signalling a right turn, or
  • is turning right.

Don't pass if the vehicle has signalled a left turn.

Picture of a car passing at an intersection

Passing on the left at an intersection

Passing on the left at an intersection with more than one lane on your side of the road

In this situation, you can pass on the left if the vehicle you are passing is in a different lane and you can pass safely.

Picture of a car passing on the left at a laned intersection

Passing on the left at an intersection

Passing on the right at an intersection with more than one lane on your side of the road

In this situation, you can pass on the right if you are turning right or going straight ahead.

Picture of a car passing on the right at an intersection

Passing on the right at an intersection

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Last updated: 16 October 2012