Stage 4: Passing on Two Lane Roads

I’m not a big fan of any driver attempting to pass on a two lane road, much less a teen driver. However, for completeness sake, I’ve decided to mention a few notes about this dangerous maneuver.

Look for long, straight roads without hills

You should never attempt to pass another car on a two lane road that is either curvy or hilly. Also, if you can’t see at least a quarter mile ahead, don’t attempt to pass. So, if there’s fog or any other kind of obstruction blocking your view, stay put! The best scenario for attempting this pass is a clear, sunny day on a long, flat, and clear stretch of road.

Overtaking the car

In order to reduce the amount of time in which your car is in the same lane as oncoming traffic, you need to be traveling at least 15mph faster than the car you are passing. Therefore, the car you are passing must be driving seriously slow (about 15-20 mph below the speed limit) in order to be considered for the pass.

If you see danger, abort!

If an oncoming car (or some other obstruction such as animal) suddenly appears, hit the brake and slide back into your lane. You should only complete the pass if all is clear. Never try to “beat” an oncoming car. That is exactly how people get killed.

Closure rates are difficult to determine when traveling head-on

Passing on a two lane road is so dangerous because it’s difficult to determine how much gap you need to complete the pass. Most drivers are familiar with determining closure rates when we are situated perpendicular to the oncoming car and when we are stationary. In a two lane passing situation, not only is the oncoming car moving, but so are we! Our ability to determine how much time we have before our two cars meet is like trying to solve one of those complicated algebra problems involving trains. It’s just too difficult.

Budget at least 15 seconds to make the pass

If the car you wish to pass is traveling 35mph and you attempt the pass at 50 mph, it is going to take you approximately 15 seconds to complete the pass. You will travel nearly a fifth of mile during this time.

For those of you who are interested, here is how we arrived at the 15 seconds:

  • The car you are passing is approximately 20 feet long.
  • You will begin the pass with a 3 second following distance. If you are are both traveling at 35 mph, we travel 51 feet per second. A 3 second following distance means that we’re approximately 150 feet behind the car.
  • In order to move back in front of the car after we’ve completed the pass, we will need to be approximately 130 feet ahead of that car.
  • Therefore, we must advance a total of 300 feet (20 + 150 + 130) ahead of the car we are passing.
  • If the car ahead of us maintains a speed of 35 mph and we drive 50 mph, we are gaining 22 feet per second. It will take us approximately 13.6 seconds to cover this ground.
  • At 50mph, we are moving at 73 feet per second. Therefore, it will take us 992 feet to complete the pass. This is nearly 1/5 of a mile.

Bottom line: If the car ahead of you isn’t traveling fast enough, take a deep breath and decide if it is really worth it to attempt the pass. In almost every situation, the answer will be “no’. So, relax, stay put, and enjoy the drive.

Continue on to You Don’t Own the Road (So Share It!)

All information and advice contained within this website is to be taken at your own risk. Nothing contained within this website should be misconstrued as professional driving instruction.