In Fresno on Thursday, July 25, 2019, the driver of a pickup died while trying to pass another vehicle. The crash happened in the westbound lane of State Route 168 near Ashlan Avenue when a white pickup truck attempted to pass another truck.
It’s not clear how the collision happened, but as the white was passing the other truck, it rolled over into the eastbound lane killing its driver. Police say that the deceased driver wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and other driver wasn’t injured nor was his vehicle seriously damaged. Police also say no charges will be filed.
Many times, you need to pass a slower moving vehicle. On freeways, you often have the option of choosing another lane to get around the slower car. Other times, you might be on an undivided, two-lane highway, and your only passing option is to use the oncoming lane.
Of the two scenarios, passing on a two-lane highway is more dangerous, but on both types of roadways, passing can be risky. according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, n two-lane highways, head-on collisions which make up 54 percent of all rural highway fatalities, and most rural passing accidents are head-on collisions.
Passing on Freeways
With multi-lane highways, passing is an option in just about any lane, however, California law allows officers to give tickets to drivers who use the left lane for use other than passing. Also, the California DMV driver’s handbook says that the left lane should be used for passing slower vehicles.
Passing in other lanes isn’t technically illegal, just not preferred. The reason is, most drivers are aware of other cars passing on the left and are more likely to be on the lookout for cars passing on the left. When accidents do happen, one of the primary causes is when the passing car is in the blind spot of the car they are approaching, and that car moves into the left lane.
Passing on Two-Lane Highways
Passing on two-lane, undivided highways is legal in California, however, there are restrictions.
CVC Section 21751 Says that passing another vehicle in the left lane of a two-lane highway is allowed if the “left side is clearly visible and free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking ….”
CVC Section 21752 lists other restriction for passing left of center on a two-lane highway:
- When approaching or upon the crest of a grade or a curve in the highway where the driver’s view is obstructed.
- When the view is obstructed upon approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel.
- When approaching within 100 feet of or when traversing any railroad grade crossing.
- When approaching within 100 feet of or when traversing any intersection.
Liability when Passing Leads to Accident
So, who’s at fault when an accident happens when passing? Under California civil law, in any accident, the driver who is negligent is liable for the damages. When both drivers are negligent, then the law divides the responsibility for the damage by a percentage of each driver’s negligence.
Many people feel that the negligent driver is the one that is breaking a traffic law when passing. However, that’s not what the law says. In fact, in California there is a law that states that a conviction or charge of a traffic violation does not confer liability on the driver in a personal injury case.
This means that if someone is passing and do so illegally, and they cause an accident, the fact that they broke the law does not determine their fault in a civil case. As a practical matter, when someone does break the law and causes an accident, there’s a good chance they are also at fault, but the victim has to prove that they were negligent and not just that they broke the law.
The law gives each person a duty to operate their car such that they don’t harm others around them. Also, the law will look at the driver’s actions to see if what the did was reasonable under the circumstances and if so, then even if they broke a law, they will not be negligent.
Duties of Car Being Passed
California law also requires that when a car is being passed, they are to move over to the right-side of their lane and do not speed up so that the passing car can safely overtake the other car. If a passing car is injured, the law will look at whether the car being passed violated its duty to the passing car.
Do I need a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you are injured because either you were passing or the other driver was passing, you should talk to an attorney who understands the laws regarding passing other vehicles and civil liability. While it’s not always necessary to hire an attorney, you owe it to yourself to at least talk to one in a free consultation.
At Maison Law, we have the knowledge, experience and passion to help you get the compensation you deserve when you are injured by the negligence of another driver. Contact our Fresno Personal Injury Lawyers 559-203-3333 to talk to an attorney who can give you the peace of mind that your case is being competently and professionally handled so you can focus on your recovery.