When Is Passing on the Right Permitted in Illinois?

Drivers in Illinois understand that the left of two lanes moving in the same direction is intended for passing. Driving in the left lane is permitted under specific circumstances, such as overtaking a slower vehicle in the right lane, avoiding traffic congestion and roadway obstructions in the right lane, and on roadways restricted to a single lane of traffic.

However, there may be times when drivers want to pass in the right lane. Is this permitted in Illinois? Under what circumstances are you allowed to pass in the right lane?

Passing on the Right

Generally speaking, passing on the right should be avoided, as it could lead to accidents, especially when passing through dangerous intersections. However, Illinois state law spells out certain instances when passing on the right is allowed.

The most common reason drivers pass on the right is when a vehicle in front of them is making or about to make a left turn. This is permitted under the Illinois Vehicle Code 625 ILCS 5/11-704. 

However, drivers are only allowed to pass on the right when they may do so safely, and they may not drive off the pavement/roadway to pass. Passing on the right may also be allowed in multiple lanes of traffic.

Passing in Multiple Lanes of Traffic

Safety is of paramount concern any time one vehicle is passing another. It’s important to only do so when allowed by law and to avoid causing a car accident or putting cyclists and pedestrians in harm’s way.

According to Illinois Vehicle Code 625 ILCS 5/11-704, passing on the right is permitted in roadway situations where the pavement is wide enough to allow for two or more lines of vehicles moving in the same direction, including one-way streets (or any roadway where traffic is restricted to one direction) with two or more lanes.

Rules for Motorcycles

Anyone riding a motorcycle should know that lane splitting, or passing between lanes of traffic on highways, is illegal in Illinois. Lane filtering, or passing between lanes of slow or stopped traffic at red lights or stop signs, is also prohibited.

To legally pass in traffic, 2-wheeled vehicles such as motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds must do so within their own lane of traffic, typically on the left-hand side. If there are multiple lanes of traffic, a motorcyclist may pass between one vehicle on the right and one on the left only if they can safely do so in an unobstructed lane of traffic.

Motorcyclists can also pass on the right of a vehicle traveling in the same direction if there is unobstructed pavement measuring eight feet or wider on that side (as when passing a vehicle making a left turn). 

Even so, it’s imperative to practice safety first and understand the risks of injury and death for motorcyclists involved in crashes. In the first five months of 2024, Illinois experienced 475 fatalities from crashes, about 10% of which were motorcyclists.

Always Follow the Rules of the Road

Passing, either on the left or the right, can help to alleviate traffic congestion. In the State of Illinois, however, there are laws regarding when and how you can pass other vehicles moving in the same direction.

It’s important to know when passing on the right is permitted so you can do so safely and avoid moving violations or worse — causing accidents. Pay close attention to traffic around you, including cyclists and pedestrians, before you attempt to pass on the right.

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