It’s nothing new, but with the increased traffic on Highway 18 this summer illegal passing has become more prevalent. The situation plays out literally everyday on my drive home, east on State Highway 18. Someone is turning left off of the highway and there is now always oncoming traffic. They have to stop on the highway to make the turn and the cars, following the law, will also come to a stop behind them. Then, from the back of the pack some guy (in a blue pick up truck) comes steaming up the shoulder to pass everyone on the right.
In an “Ask A Trooper” segment from 2016 Sgt. Neil Dickenson of the Minnesota State Patrol stated, “Passing on the right is against the law unless there is a lane provide—like a bypass lane—or if you are driving on a multi-lane highway. A driver can never use the shoulder of a road (paved or unpaved) or a turn lane for passing on the right. It is unsafe, and not legal, so we are asking drivers not to do that.”
Passing a vehicle on the shoulder or by using a turn lane is illegal. The figure below shows three commonly encountered situations on our highways in rural Minnesota:
Example A shows vehicle 1 waiting in the through lane to make a left turn at a T-intersection. Vehicle 2 wants to continue north, but cannot because the lane is blocked by vehicle 1. It is illegal for Vehicle 2 to use the shoulder to pass Vehicle 1.
Example B shows vehicle 1 waiting in the through lane to make a left turn at a 4-way intersection. Vehicle 2 wants to continue north, but cannot because the through lane is being blocked by Vehicle 1. It is illegal for Vehicle 2 to use the right turn lane to pass Vehicle 1.
Example C shows vehicle 1 waiting in the through lane to make a left turn at a T- intersection with a bypass lane. Vehicle 2 wants to continue north. Vehicle 2 should use the bypass lane to pass Vehicle 1.
Passing a left-turning vehicle on the right is legal is when there is a bypass lane present, indicated by a dashed or dotted lane line on the pavement. However, passing vehicles by using the shoulder or a turn lane is illegal. Minnesota Statue 169.18 states “The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle on the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. In no event shall such movement be made by driving off of the pavement or main traveled portion of the roadway.” The shoulder is not considered part of the main traveled portion of the roadway.
Generally, shoulders are not wide enough to be used safely for passing. Crossing the white line and driving on the shoulder creates an unsafe condition for other road users, especially pedestrians, bicyclists, and opposing left turn drivers. Also, using right turn lane as a passing lane creates an unsafe condition for both shoulder users and other motorists.
In 2009, 3-year-old Jack Larson was struck and killed in Merrifield by a man driving a minivan who illegally passed on the right of a line of vehicles stopped to allow a group of children to cross the road. It’s not always just a car turning left.
A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson – Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave, Duluth, MN 55811. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NE or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org).