Updated Oct 20, 2018

People often ask if they are allowed to pass on the right when another car is waiting to make a left turn. It is common in New Jersey that a vehicle will stop with a left turn signal on and cars will pass on the right. But is this allowed?

First, the easy case: If there are two or more lanes in one direction and the car in the left lane is waiting to make a left turn, N.J.S.A. 39:4-85 allows the traffic in the right lane to pass on the right. This is a common exception to the keep-right-pass-left rule.

The second type of case is a little more complicated. Let’s say that there is only one lane in each direction and there is a car waiting to make a left – can you pass on the right? The answer is “sometimes.” According to N.J.S.A. 39:4-85, the rule is that you can only pass on the right if you are driving on the portion of the roadway that is regularly used for traffic, and it is safe to do so.

This was discussed by the Appellate Division in April v. Collings Lake Ambulance, 109 N.J. Super. 392 (1970). The court said that you cannot pass on the right if you are going to drive on the shoulder, even partially. Therefore, passing on the right would only be allowed if the road is wide enough so you can pass without going on the shoulder, and even then you would have to make sure that it is safe.