Painted Lines on the Road

To Pass or Not to Pass? That is the Question

Have you ever found yourself driving down a highway wondering about the painted lines on the road? Is it really ‘illegal’ to pass on a solid yellow line? What law actually governs “lines” on a roadway?

Section 149 of the Highway Traffic Act deals, in part, with lines on a road. It says that a motorist cannot move to the left of the centre of a roadway if the maneuver is within 30 metres of a railway crossing. It also says that a motorist cannot move to the left of the centre of a roadway if the maneuver is (a) on a curve; (b) at the crest of a grade; or (c) within 30 metres of a tunnel, bridge or viaduct where the driver’s view is obstructed within that 30 metre distance.

Section 148 of the Highway Traffic Act also applies to passing situations – especially section 148(8). This section says a motorist wishing to pass a car, truck or motorcycle travelling ahead may only do so if the roadway in front of, and to the left, of the vehicle to be passed is free from oncoming traffic and can be passed safely. It also requires that the roadway to the left of the car, truck or motorcycle wishing to pass be free of overtaking traffic and the pass can be made safely. Note that Section 148 does not refer specifically to painted lines on the road.

What does all this mean? Well, for starters, it means that one vehicle passing another must always be done when it is safe to do so – regardless of the painted lines on the road: a dotted yellow line does not automatically mean that it is safe and ‘legal’ to pass a vehicle ahead. It also means that, if you are travelling along a highway with a solid line, and you are not within 30 metres of a curve, crest of grade, tunnel, bridge or viaduct where visibility is obscured, you may pass a vehicle ahead provided that the requirements of section 148 of the Highway Traffic Act are satisfied (i.e. no oncoming or overtaking traffic and it is otherwise safe to do so). In other words, there will be circumstances where it is ‘legal’ to pass on a solid yellow line.

Line markings on a highway are restrictive and are there to help drivers of cars, trucks and motorcycles make safe decisions as they use the roadway. As a general rule, the line markings should be followed.

Drivers of cars and trucks should remember that motorcycles can sometimes be hard to see – but are still there to be seen! – so take extra precaution when checking for oncoming or other overtaking traffic and before attempting to make a passing maneuver. Remind yourself to look not just for cars and trucks but also for motorcycles.

The summer driving season is now upon us. Be mindful of your surroundings at all times – we would rather have you stay safe than become one of our clients.

Bill Simpson

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