Rules of the Road: Is it legal to speed when passing another car?


Question: Is it legal to drive over the speed limit when passing another car on a two-lane road?

Answer: Yes, however it is only legal to pass a vehicle that is driving at "less than the legal maximum speed."

RCW 46.61.425 Minimum speed regulation - Passing slow moving vehicle. (1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law: PROVIDED, That a person following a vehicle driving at less than the legal maximum speed and desiring to pass such vehicle may exceed the speed limit, subject to the provisions of RCW 46.61.120 on highways having only one lane of traffic in each direction, at only such a speed and for only such a distance as is necessary to complete the pass with a reasonable margin of safety.

Q: When driving east on Bellwether Way, the stoplight at the intersection of Roeder Avenue shows two red arrows - one left red arrow and one right red arrow. When turning right (south) onto Roeder Avenue, is it permissible to turn "right on red," even though the red light is an arrow?

A: The short answer is in that area it is legal if there are no signs that say "No Turn on Red." The following RCW is the actual law, with sections removed to make it easier to read. RCW 46.61.055 Traffic control signal legend. (3)(c) Vehicle operators facing a steady red arrow indication ... may, after stopping, proceed to make a right turn from a one-way or two-way street into a two-way street or into a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the right turn; or a left turn from a one-way street or two-way street into a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the left turn; unless a sign posted by competent authority prohibits such movement.


Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.

Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now serving on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service