New passing law for two-lane roads now in effect

July 2, 2012

  A new law that allows drivers to exceed the speed limit by up to 10 mph to pass a vehicle traveling under the speed limit on some two-lane roads in Wyoming is now in effect.

The law approved by the 2012 Legislature applies only on two-lane roads with a posted speed limit of 50 mph or higher. In addition, the only vehicles the law authorizes to exceed that speed limit are passenger cars, pickups and motorcycles, and only if they are not towing a trailer.

Those vehicles can exceed the posted speed limit on the highway section by up to 10 mph, in order to get around the slower vehicle safely.

“As an example, on a two-lane highway with a posted speed limit of 65 mph, you are allowed to pass if the vehicle you are passing is going slower than the speed limit,” Wyoming Highway Patrol Col. John Butler said. “While passing that vehicle, you are allowed to exceed the posted speed limit only up to 10 mph, and then you are required to return to your lane of travel as soon as practicable.”

The law is meant to address traffic congestion occurring at times on some two-lane highways in the state, and provide a mechanism to get around slow-moving vehicles safely.

“The law does not allow you to do this without doing it safely, and that is our message to drivers,” Butler said. “Even though this law allows you to exceed the speed limit to pass, you still can’t do that unless you are doing so safely.”

The law likely will require some officer discretion to enforce, particularly because it only applies when the vehicle being passed is driving at below the posted speed limit.

“That’s where the challenge will be and that’s where officer discretion is going to come in,” Butler said. “Often times there is error in speedometers. So you may think that you’re traveling under the speed limit and you’re unaware that your speedometer may be off. That’s where we need to have that conversation roadside, about, if the vehicle you’re passing is going 65 mph, it doesn’t allow you to pass.”

If the vehicle being passed is going under the speed limit, but the passing vehicle exceeds the limit by more than 10 mph, the passing driver can be cited for exceeding the posted limit.

“The big factor here is safety,” Butler said. “Just because we have a law in place now that allows you to exceed the speed limit to pass a vehicle not traveling at the speed limit, does not mean that you just go out and do so without due regard for the safety of the roadway. It’s even more critical now that you really pay attention to what’s going on.”