Illinois Passing Laws and Proper Lane Usage

Illinois Passing Laws and Proper Lane Usage

Illinois Passing Laws

A driver must use caution when passing another vehicle. Here are some important reminders that you should always keep in mind when you do:

  • On a two-lane highway, the left lane should be seen and free of oncoming traffic for a distance great enough to permit passing.  
  • Do not turn back into the right-hand lane until you can see the entire vehicle you have just passed in your rearview mirror. 
  • You must return to your lane before you get within 200 feet of an oncoming vehicle. 
  • The driver you are passing must not increase speed until you have completed your passing.
  • Driving off the pavement or main traveled part of the road is not allowed when passing another vehicle on the right or the left. 
  • When passing a bicyclist or pedestrian who is riding or walking on the road or shoulder of the roadway, you must keep a minimum of three feet between your vehicle and the bicyclist or pedestrian.
  • You may pass on the right (but not on the shoulder except for authorized vehicles):
    • When you have enough room on a two-lane roadway, and when the vehicle you are
    • passing is making or is about to make a left turn.
    • On a one-way street or a roadway with two or more clear lanes in each direction.
    • At an intersection widened for this purpose.
  • Passing on a two-lane, two-way roadway is not allowed:
    • In an area marked for no passing by a solid yellow line on your side of the center of the roadway or a DO NOT PASS or NO PASSING ZONE sign.
    • On a hill or curve where it is not possible to see oncoming vehicles.
    • Within 100 feet of an intersection or railroad crossing.
    • When the view is blocked within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel.
    • When a vehicle has stopped at a crosswalk or intersection to allow a pedestrian to cross.
    • In a construction zone. All construction zones in Illinois are no passing zones.
    • In any school zone located in an unincorporated area.
    • In any posted school zone in an incorporated area.
    • When a school bus has stopped to load or discharge passengers.

Proper Lane Usage

You must drive on the right half of the roadway except:

  • When passing another vehicle moving in the same direction on a two-lane highway,
    interstate highway or controlled freeway.
  • When a blockage makes it necessary to drive to the left of the center line. You may
    drive on the left after yielding to oncoming traffic.
  • On a roadway divided into three marked lanes for traffic.
  • On a one-way street with two or more lanes of traffic.
  • When directed to drive in a left lane by traffic control signs and signals on a multi –
    lane, two-way highway.
  • When crossing the center line to make a left turn into or from an alley, private road
    or driveway.
  • When approaching a stationary emergency vehicle (when it is safe to do so).
  • When roadway construction is located in or in close proximity to the right lane or
    right shoulder.

When driving on an interstate highway or full access controlled freeway, a person may not drive in the left lane(s), except when passing another vehicle. Exceptions include when:

    • No other vehicle is directly behind the vehicle being driven in the left lane.
    • Traffic conditions/congestion make it impractical to drive in the right lane.
    • Weather conditions make it necessary to use the left lane(s).
    • There is an obstruction or hazard in the right lane.

The driver is changing lanes to yield to emergency or construction vehicles.

Additional rules apply in certain situations:

  • Slow vehicles must use the right-hand lane except when passing or making a left turn.
  • Weaving from lane to lane to move faster than the traffic flow is unlawful.
  • Traffic must travel in the direction of posted one-way streets or roadways. This rule
    does not apply to police and emergency vehicles using sirens or flashing lights.
  • It is unlawful to drive across median strips such as unpaved strips or median barriers. A driver may turn left across a paved dividing-space unless it is not permitted
    by a traffic control sign or signal.
  • A driver must not enter or leave any controlled-access roadway except at a posted
    entrance or exit.

Choosing Lanes

Many roads will have two or more lanes going in your direction. Here are some tips for choosing lanes for the smoothest driving:

  • Choose the lane that is less congested and has the smoothest flow of traffic.
  • Pick the right lane if only two lanes are going in your direction. You should not weave in.
  • If you have the option to choose between three lanes on your side of the road:
    • Pick the middle lane for the smoothest driving
    • Use the left lane to go faster, pass, or turn left
    • Use the right lane to drive slowly, enter, or turn off the road
  • You should always position your car to keep up with the traffic flow. 
  • If other drivers are going faster than the speed limit, slow down and move to the right. You should never exceed the legal speed limit.
  • Don’t drive in bunches or drive in the blind spot of other drivers. If you can, keep other vehicles out of your blind spots as well.


You’ll need a sufficient gap with other cars any time you merge. This will allow a safe following distance from the ones in front of you. Here are some tips:

  • Always filter through traffic slowly. This is because if you wait for all lanes to clear, you’ll just inconvenience other drivers, tie up traffic, or even cause an accident.
  • Don’t squeeze into a gap if it’s too small. Again, you should always leave space for a cushion.
  • You should always watch out for vehicles around you. Check your rearview mirror before you change lanes and don’t forget to use your turn signals – they are not just there for decorations.
  • Lastly, if you have to cross several lanes, don’t rush! Take them one at a time.

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