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Relevant to Personal Injury, What is the Law Regarding Passing Another Vehicle in Massachusetts?

Car accident injuries are of the most significant people encounter in their lives. Speed is often a factor, not only in whether people are injured, but to the degree of the injury. Passing another vehicle ordinarily involves accelerating and traveling on the opposite side of the road. Under this common scenario, major injuries can occur when things go wrong.

When we all got our licenses to begin with, we each took a driver's license test, both written and the actual driving test itself. In doing so, we were tested on the rules of the road. In preparation for the test we all either took a class or studied up on the laws as they pertain to driving on roads in Massachusetts. Knowing the rules as they apply to passing other vehicles is something we all had knowledge of, at least for a short period of time in order to take our tests. We have the laws in place, of course, to help us avoid car accidents, personal injuries, injury to others, and property damage.

There is, in fact, a chapter in section in our Massachusetts Gen. laws having to do specifically with the issue of passing vehicles while traveling in the same direction. It's very clear. I'll take you through the statute line by line.

First, the statute says as follows. Except as herein otherwise provided, the driver of a vehicle passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction shall drive a safe distance to the left and such other vehicle and shall not return to the right until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. Okay, so the statute starts by providing that overtaking another vehicle is permitted, and not essentially, reasonable care should be exercised by the passing vehicle.

The statute goes on to say that if the way is of sufficient width for two vehicles to pass, the driver of the leading one shall not unnecessarily obstruct the other. More clarity. The statute provides for what the car being overtaken must do. It must cooperate. We can all envision the fact pattern that has resulted in this portion of the statute. The vehicle is traveling at a speed which the vehicle immediately preceding said vehicle believes is too slow. Vehicle to its the gas and begins to accelerate. Vehicle two pulls to the left of vehicle one in an attempt to overtake vehicle one. Vehicle one, anointed vehicle twos action, accelerates so as to not allow vehicles to back into the lane of traffic. Such action clearly puts vehicle to at a safety risk, not to mention the risk created for vehicle two. This portion of the statute provides that vehicle one must allow vehicle to back into traffic. As you may know from reading other entries of this blog, vehicle two's failure to allow vehicle one back into traffic can be considered by a jury as evidence of negligence and personal injury case.

The statute goes on to say as follows. If it is not possible to overtake a bicycle or other vehicle at a safe distance in the same lane, the overtaking vehicle shall use all or part of an adjacent lane if it is safe to do so or wait for a safe opportunity to overtake. So, the statute provides that the vehicle waiting to overtake either a bicycle or another vehicle needs not wait forever to pass. But, it must wait until it is safe. Statute specifically allows the passing vehicle pull into the adjacent lane, and then back into the traveling lane. However, regardless of how slow the other vehicle or bicycle being overtaken is operating, vehicle two is not permitted to overtake unless it is safe to do so. Vehicle twos failure to exercise reasonable care would clearly be evidence of negligence and personal injury matter.

The next sentence states as follows. Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaken vehicle on visible signal and shall not increase speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaken vehicle. There is some redundancy in this portion of the statute, but it emphasizes that proper signal must be given by the overtaking vehicle and that the vehicle being overtaken may need to move to the right to allow the other vehicle back into traffic when safe to do so.

So picture an It's example for this part of the statute. Vehicle one is driving in the center lane of a 3 lane highway. vehicle to his coming up the same lane directly behind vehicle one. Vehicle three is operating in the left-hand lane and is experiencing mechanical issues. vehicle one is maintaining the same rate of speed. Vehicle to accelerate its polls to left past vehicle one but then sees vehicle three slowing had as he is passing vehicle want. While still next a vehicle one, vehicle two attempts to continue the pass putting on his right signal, signaling to vehicle one that he intends to pull back into that lane of traffic to avoid vehicle three. If safe, this statute provides that the vehicle one should allow vehicle to back into that lane of traffic so that it may avoid vehicle three. That action may require vehicle one to move into the right way.

Lastly the statute deals specifically with passing on the right when allowed. It says, that the driver of a vehicle may, if the roadways free from obstruction and is of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles, overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle when the vehicle overtaken is a making or about to make a left turn, be upon a one-way street, or see upon any roadway on which traffic is restricted to one direction of movement.

This is a pretty helpful portion of the statute because many people just aren't that clear as to when there were permitted to pass another vehicle on the right. That's not to say they don't pass vehicles on the right. Passing on the right occurs all the time. What I've learned from speaking with clients is that they don't ordinarily understand what's allowed and what's not allowed in regard to write in passing. They simply do it because they see other people doing it and they'd seen other people doing it for years. So be clear in your understanding of the statute. There are really only three scenarios were passing on the right is okay. The first one is when the vehicle ahead is making a left-hand turn. It's okay to pass that vehicle on the right as long as it's safe to do so. The next is upon a one-way street. Although this is somewhat vague, what I am envisioning in reading this portion of statute is that it's a one-way street with two lanes of traffic. I am not able to envision a situation in which passing on the right on a one lane, one way street would be safe. The final scenario, passing upon a roadway in which traffic is restricted to one direction of movement, is the most common. This is essentially talking about divided highways. Yes, it is legal to pass another vehicle on the right you are on a divided highway.

This raises a very interesting question regarding highways or major rows in which there are multiple lanes of traffic, but the roadway is not divided thereby meeting the roadway is not restricted to one direction of movement. There are plenty of major roadways, even roadways characterized as highways, in which the road is not divided in there by not restricted to one direction of movement, but there are still multiple lanes of traffic going in each direction. People don't generally understand the technical specifics of this statute and naturally apply the rules of passing on a divided highway to driving on a non-divided highway. Could this be considered negligence in a personal injury case? Well, at the termination is ultimately going to be made by the jury. At the group of our peers who are also driving up there with the rest of us. It is a violation of the driving law and, therefore, it would clearly be evidence of negligence. The question is how much weight with the jury really assess the best fact.

Following the rules of the road is an important step in both being safe and limiting liability. If you've been involved in a car accident and you're wondering what you should do or whether you have a case, consider speaking with a competent Boston personal injury lawyer. Most, like our office, provide free consultations with the attorney. If you like to speak with an attorney about your case now, just call our office and will connect you.

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