Is it illegal to pass on a solid yellow line?
People often assume that it is illegal to pass a vehicle by crossing over a solid yellow line to overtake the other vehicle. This is not necessarily true. Yellow is an “advisory” or “warning” colour on the roads in Ontario. Yellow lights advise that you should prepare to stop, yellow speed limit signs suggest, but do not dictate, the safe speed for an on/off ramp to/from the highway, and yellow lines on the road are a guideline as to when it’s probably not a good idea to pass. The solid yellow lines are painted around the area where a driver’s view of the upcoming road is obstructed to the point where it would probably not be safe to pass another vehicle. However this does not necessarily make passing on a yellow line illegal.
Section 148 (8) of the Highway Traffic Act deals with passing vehicles going in the same direction. It says, “No person in charge of a vehicle shall pass or attempt to pass another vehicle going in the same direction on a highway unless the roadway, (a) in front of and to the left of the vehicle to be passed is safely free from approaching traffic; and (b) to the left of the vehicle passing or attempting to pass is safely free from overtaking traffic.”
This basically means that the area around both vehicles has to be clear, as is dictated by common sense. This section does not indicate anything about the lines on the road and there is not a separate section that deals with passing over lines or passing on unmarked road. This is the section on passing.
Section 149 (1) expands upon this. It deals with driving left of the centre line and says, “No vehicle shall be driven or operated to the left of the centre of a roadway designed for one or more lines of traffic in each direction, (a) when approaching the crest of a grade or upon a curve in the roadway or within 30 metres of a bridge, viaduct or tunnel where the driver’s view is obstructed within that distance so as to create a potential hazard in the event another vehicle might approach from the opposite direction; or (b) when approaching within 30 metres of a level railway crossing.
This clarifies that the illegality involved in passing (driving left of centre) is not determined by the lines on the road but rather by whether the driver’s view is obstructed to vehicles that may be approaching at one of three locations: the crest of a hill, a curve in the road, or within 30 meters of a bridge, viaduct, or tunnel. It is also illegal to drive left of centre to pass within 30 meters of a railway crossing, regardless of whether your view is obstructed.
The fine for these offences under 148 (8), 149 (1) (a) and 149 (1) (b) is $85 and $150 in a community safety zone. For an officer to lay a charge and get a conviction under any of these sections they would have to observe and be able to articulate in court the position of your vehicle, the position of any other vehicles around your vehicle and the distance from your vehicle to the grade, curve, bridge, viaduct, tunnel, or railway crossing and how exactly your view was obstructed from the position you were in at the time. It is not enough for him to simply rely on the lines on the road as evidence that the view at that point is obstructed.
So remember that while yellow lines often correspond with points on the road where it would, for one of the reasons outlined above, be unsafe to pass, it is not illegal to cross over the line just because it’s a solid yellow line.
About the author: Simon Borys is a former police officer who is currently studying law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario to become a criminal lawyer.