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Improper Passing in Georgia

A few Georgia laws regulate passing other cars on the road. In this article, you'll learn about Improper Passing and other offenses related to passing and driving on multi-lane roads, including Improper Passing on the Right, Passing with Insufficient Clearance, and Improper Passing in a No-Passing Zone.

General Rules of the Road: Driving on the Right and Passing

In general, drivers must drive on the right side of the roadway. There are, of course, a few exceptions. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-40 explains that drivers may leave the right half of the roadway when:

  • They are passing on a road where passing is legal,
  • When there is an obstruction on the road that they need to avoid, assuming they yield to drivers traveling in the other direction,
  • They are driving on a three-lane road and driving in the middle lane is permissible, or
  • They are driving on a one-way road.

Slower drivers should stay to the right, allowing faster drivers to pass on the left. 

On a four-lane road with lanes for cars traveling in both directions, drivers may not cross over the center of the roadway, except where signage specifically says otherwise. Drivers may also cross the center line when making left turns.

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-40 prohibits drivers from "impeding the normal flow of traffic" by traveling side by side at the same speed. This prevents other cars from passing and clogs up the road. The obvious exception to this (that is especially relevant in metro areas) is when you are sitting in traffic.

Drivers charged under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-40 can be charged with:

  • Obstructing traffic,
  • Driving on the wrong side of an undivided street,
  • Obstructing the flow of traffic,
  • Lane violation, or
  • Obstructing/impeding traffic.

On roads with lanes for cars going in both directions, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-41 explains that drivers passing each other in opposite directions must pass each other on the right. 

For drivers charged under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-41, their ticket may read "Driving on the wrong side of the road."

For passing cars going in the same direction, drivers must pass on the left. They may not switch back to the right lane until they are safely clear of the car they have passed. The driver in the car being passed should allow the other vehicle to pass them and should not accelerate until the passing vehicle has completely gone past them. See O.C.G.A. § 40-6-42.

If you get a ticket for a violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-42, your ticket will probably read "Improper Passing."

Passing on the Right

Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-43, passing on the right is permitted:

  • When the driver in the left lane is making a left turn, or 
  • On a street or highway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lanes of traffic in the direction being traveled by the passing vehicle.

Passing on the right is only permitted if it can be done safely without driving off the roadway.

Limitations on Passing on the Left

Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-44, drivers may not pass on the left until the left side is clearly visible and free of oncoming traffic. The passing vehicle must have enough space to pass without interfering with vehicles approaching in the other direction and without interfering with the travel of the car being passed.

Violation of this code section may be ticketed as "passing with insufficient clearance."

When passing on the left, the passing vehicle must return to the right lane as quickly as possible and before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle.

Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-45, passing on the left is not permitted when approaching a hill or curve that obstructs the driver's view. This is a safety hazard because the driver cannot see whether a car is coming in the opposite direction.

Passing on the left is forbidden when traveling through an intersection with a solid double line or a combination stripe with a solid yellow line on the right.

Passing on railroad grade crossings is similarly prohibited, as is passing upon approaching within 100 feet of a bridge, viaduct or tunnel.

These prohibitions laid out in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-45 do not apply on one-way roads. They also do not apply to a driver of a vehicle turning left into or from an alley, private road, driveway, or roadway.

No-Passing Zones

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-46 deals with "no-passing zones." Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is illegal to pass another driver in a no-passing zone. The law authorizes the Georgia Department of Transportation to designate no-passing zones. It must mark them with signs or markings on the roadway indicating their beginning and end. Signs or markings must be clearly visible. 

They will usually be marked with a solid barrier line on the right-hand side of a combination stripe along the center lane, or with a double yellow line.

Penalties for Improper Passing in Georgia

Improper Passing and related offenses are all misdemeanor offenses. This means that they have a maximum penalty of:

  • A fine of up to $1,000, and 
  • Up to 12 months in jail.

It is improbable that you will do jail time for an Improper Passing ticket. That said, a relatively minor ticket can impact your life fairly significantly. Fines can be steep. Tickets impact your insurance rates. And a day spent sitting in court is time wasted.

License Points for Improper Passing in Georgia 

Most Improper Passing offenses are 3-Point offenses. If you are convicted of Improper Passing or a related offense in a Georgia court, the court will submit a record of your conviction to the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS). DDS keeps a record of points you accumulate as a Georgia driver.

OffenseCode SectionPoints Assessed
Improper Lane UsageO.C.G.A. § 40-6-403
Obstructing TrafficO.C.G.A. § 40-6-403
Driving on the Wrong Side of an Undivided StreetO.C.G.A. § 40-6-403
Failure to Yield to Oncoming TrafficO.C.G.A. § 40-6-413
Driving on the Wrong Side of the RoadO.C.G.A. § 40-6-41
Improper PassingO.C.G.A. § 40-6-423
Improper Passing on the RightO.C.G.A. § 40-6-433
Improper Passing / Passing with Insufficient ClearanceO.C.G.A. § 40-6-443
Improper Passing on Hill or CurveO.C.G.A. § 40-6-454
Passing in a No Passing ZoneO.C.G.A. § 40-6-463

Click here to learn more about the points system in Georgia, including how to get points off your license.

Why You Need A Lawyer for an Improper Passing Ticket in Georgia

If a police officer has ticketed you for Improper Passing in Georgia, you are facing the possibility of stiff fines and a day wasted in court - at the very least. If you have points on your record already, you should not plead guilty without talking to an experienced Georgia Traffic Defense Attorney. Questions about your case? Call me today.

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