As far as I have read, overtaking over speed limit is always illegal. So do I need to keep in left if I am at speed limit and no one can overtake me legally? It is also less tedious to just stick to one lane and cruise at a legal top speed rather than go to left lane, overtake, switch back to right lane N number of times.

This is of course keeping in mind that emergency vehicles are always given passage.

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    It's "keep right unless overtaking" in the right-hand-drive countries of the US and mainland Europe.
    – CMaster
    Aug 31, 2015 at 11:01
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    I edited the title to avoid closing the question as "too broad". Now it is specifically addressing the countries where this law applies and should be a valid question. Aug 31, 2015 at 12:26
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    It's still going to depend on the jurisdiction, as you can see from the long list of answers of the form well, where I live… As such, the question is still too broad.
    – choster
    Aug 31, 2015 at 14:43
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    Please don't do this ... ever. Blocking the left lane when not using it to overtake will in fact get you fined in many countries (including Canada). Aug 31, 2015 at 16:03
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    In the UK (drives on the left) you should use the left hand lane except when overtaking. Failing to do so is an offence, counting as driving without due care and attention. Most would regard this as a more serious offence than speeding.
    – Kickstart
    Nov 2, 2016 at 17:18

5 Answers 5


In mainland Europe the rule is actually occupy the free rightmost lane unless when overtaking. In other words, the leftmost lane should be used exclusively for overtaking and not to cruise in. Indeed doing so is an offence and could result in a fine regardless of whether you are driving at the speed limit and nobody can legally overtake you.

It follows that one should never undertake (overtake on the right) (although some countries do allow "passing" on the right). The Wikipedia page on overtaking is very informative on the subject, and has a list of rules regarding undertaking by country.

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    In Italy, if there are three lanes, you are in the rightmost, and you want to overtake someone that is (wrongly) in the middle one, then it it allowed to overtake him on the right. This is since it is (rightly) considered safer to just pass him on the right, rather than move two lanes to your left, overtake, and move again two lanes to your right (while cursing the idiot).
    – o0'.
    Aug 31, 2015 at 13:49
  • @Lohoris To my knowledge undertaking is considered a traffic offence in Italy.
    – JoErNanO
    Aug 31, 2015 at 21:09
  • Except in this very specific case, as far as I know. I've learned this quite recently, but unfortunately I don't remember the source.
    – o0'.
    Aug 31, 2015 at 21:32
  • @o0'. What's the difference between the specific case you described and the definition of "undertaking"?
    – Tin Wizard
    Nov 2, 2016 at 18:11

In general, no.
Germany e.g. changed the law from the necessity to drive right at all times to allow staying in a lane if and only if there are vehicles on the right side for approximately every 20 seconds.

If the road is empty, you are obliged to drive right. No exceptions.

It depends on culture, but e.g. in Germany it is not your business to dictate other people how to drive. The most important law here is the first law:

Wer am Verkehr teilnimmt hat sich so zu verhalten, dass kein Anderer geschädigt, gefährdet oder mehr, als nach den Umständen unvermeidbar, behindert oder belästigt wird. (People who are road users have to act in a way that no other people are harmed or endangered. They also should not encumber or pester other people if this is not strictly necessary.)

And yes, driving left without reason other than being comfortable is considered encumbering.

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    All the rationalisations for the aggressive driving going on there are not entirely convincing, Germans do make it their business to force you to switch lanes to make room for them. It's not like they would refrain from pestering you or slow down in advance in the name of safety.
    – Relaxed
    Aug 31, 2015 at 13:16
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    Forcing people to slow down by needlessly occupying the fast lane is considered aggressive in Germany and many other countries. It is also strictly illegal in many places. On top of that, it can create dangerous situations - as a driver your first thought shouldn't be what your rights are, but what you can do to make traffic as safe as possible.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 31, 2015 at 13:28
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    Uh, that's not a rationalization, it is interpretation of law: Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf Az.: 2b Ss 1/00 - 10/00. While in this case the driver was discharged because the former jury was not attentive enough, it was laid out that deliberate continous driving on the left is not acceptable. That in our culture aggressive driving is so predominant and accepted is something I cannot explain, bill it as a negative quirk of Germany. Aug 31, 2015 at 13:30
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    @ThorstenS. I know all that but that's not really the point. It's all about nuances also. I don't like people needlessly keeping left either but that's not a reason to drive close to them, make light signals or expect someone to switch to the middle lane when doing so would force them to slow down sharply to fit in the flow. That's just as dangerous and that's happening daily. So the notion that it's all about driving rationally, following the rules and safety simply isn't plausible.
    – Relaxed
    Aug 31, 2015 at 13:40
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    "Forcing people to slow down by needlessly occupying the fast lane is considered aggressive in Germany and many other countries. " - yes, but riding up on someone's rear bumper to show your displeasure at the fact that they're not going fast enough in the fast lane is also aggressive, so if people in Germany are willing to do that it means they have no particular cultural opposition to aggressive driving in general, so "it is not your business to dictate other people how to drive" is clearly false. They try to dictate how I drive, I try to dictate how they drive, it's fun for everyone.
    – Random832
    Aug 31, 2015 at 14:19
  1. If you are going "the speed-limit", in almost every location I've ever lived in the US, you are the slowest person on the road.
  2. If you are the slowest person you aren't passing.
  3. If you aren't passing and you are on the left, then you are breaking the law (where applicable).
  4. If you are going above the speed limit, and other cars are stuck behind you then, sooner or later, you are going to make people pass on your right.

Whether you are "right" for actually following the speed limit or not is rendered moot by the fact that by not passing you are no longer following another law: Slow traffic to the right.

I can drive 10 over the speed limit in most places and constantly get passed. In many places in California, going 10 over on the highway would be the slowest lane. Going 10 over in the fast lane would be asking for a road rage indecent.

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    So speed limit is just a "suggestion" ? Or everyone travel over speed limit betting there wont be a speed trap in the road? Or ppl think paying the speed ticket is worth the extra 20 over the limit? Aug 31, 2015 at 14:28
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    @JuanCarlosOropeza Yes, unless enforced, a speed limit is a suggestion. Where you have five-digit fines (Switzerland), a speed camera every mile or so (Oman), long section control stretches (Austria), high density of mobile control (The Netherlands) and/or can be jailed even for moderate speeding (Italy, some U.S. states), the speed limit may be more than just that.
    – Alexander
    Aug 31, 2015 at 14:45
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    As @Alexander say depend on how enforced is. In my country I know is just a suggestion because not exists speed trap. But say you should drive over the limit on US just because other drivers are is irresponsable. My brother almost get a speed ticket in a vacation for following a faster car (not close) thinking that was the right speed. The front car got the ticket and he slow down for the rest of holiday. Aug 31, 2015 at 14:56
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    @JuanCarlosOropeza It's a combination of "suggestion", "protection of the herd", is it worth the cops time to pull you over (Google "9 your fine, 10 your mine".) - In many places the cop will pull you over at 15+ over - to account for fudge factor in recording equipment - so that you got clocked doing 15+ but you get a ticket for 10+, route you take (Some places rely more on ticket income than others), etc. The only time I've gotten tickets, personally, have been 15+ - mainly when speed drops going through a town and I'm not paying attention.
    – WernerCD
    Aug 31, 2015 at 16:54
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    @Agent_L: LEOs can and do ticket some offenders if they can't ticket everyone. There is no law that says traffic officers have to be "fair" when handing out citations.
    – Max
    Mar 6, 2017 at 18:41

Here in Ireland you will receive a fine and licence points, if you drive in the overtaking lanes but are not overtaking, regardless of your speed.

Overtaking lane is any lane, other than the left most lane.

edit That is the law, implementation of this is almost non existent


As the other answers have already pointed out, the laws vary greatly from one country to another.

Here in Spain you would be fined and I think that you will also lose points in your driver license.

I would like to point out that here overtaking over the speed limit is not illegal. In fact, you can go faster than the speed limit when overtaking (by 20 km/h) in some specified situations, so, even if you drive at the speed limit, you could be always legally overtaken.

  • Whether exceeding the speed limit to overtake is legal or not varies with country. In the US it isn't legal, though it's common.
    – keshlam
    Aug 31, 2015 at 14:30

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