Unsafe passing is dealt with in several common ways in most states. Here are the contexts in which unsafe passing is made illegal.
Endangering Those You Pass
In most states, you are forbidden from "interfering with the safe operation of any vehicle" that you pass, and any vehicle coming from the opposite direction on a two-lane highway.
The ticketing officer must have some evidence of your unsafe passing. You must cause an accident or nearly force another car off the road before an officer has enough evidence to write you a ticket, particularly if he or she did not see you pass other cars on the road. If a car approaching you had to put on their brakes and slow slightly to allow you to complete your passing attempt, this is not necessarily a violation, because the other driver may have slowed down unnecessarily. But if you force them off the road, you probably have little defense.
Unsafe "Blind" Passing
The violation: This law forbids you from passing in the oncoming traffic lane when "approaching the top of a hill or a curve, so as to create a hazard" to vehicles that might approach from the other side.
The defense: This law does not require that you put another driver into jeopardy to be convicted. It is sufficient that you created the possibility of a collision by attempting to pass on a blind curve or in some area where your view of the road ahead is obscured. Your defense should be aimed at challenging the officer's recollection of how far you were from the hill or curve when you passed the other vehicle. You could argue (if true) that the car you were passing sped up suddenly, making it impossible for you to complete your maneuver before reaching a blind curve area. Remember, the officer has the burden of proving each element of the violation.
Passing on the Right
The laws in most states prohibit passing on the right, except under the following circumstances:
- The passed vehicle is about to turn left. (You still can't drive onto the unpaved shoulder of the road.)
- The street or road is wide enough to accommodate two lanes of traffic.
Even if passing on the right is allowed under one of the above exceptions, you must do so "under conditions permitting such movement in safety."