When I'm behind a car going, 5/10/30 miles under the limit is it illegal for me NOT to pass them and just stay a safe distance behind them? I've been told by many an impatient passenger that it is illegal for me not to pass and that I would get a ticket for driving too slow, rather than the person I'm behind.

I've tried looking online for answers, but haven't found anything specifically addressing my question. I couldn't find anything saying it was illegal, but nothing saying it was legal either.

I am about to take a trip from Washington to Idaho, through Oregon. It will be my first long road trip, and I hate passing cars when I can avoid it so I would like to figure this out before I go.


I just got done looking up all three states minimum speed laws (Washington, Oregon, Idaho). Each of them says something very similar to this:

“No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with the law.”

But is it impeding traffic to follow a slow car when other cars are still able and allowed to pass you?

  • 2
    Every state has different driving laws, so you'd need to specify a particular state for an answer to this. Jul 23, 2017 at 20:27
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    IANAL but what others do does not change what laws apply to you. If there is a minimum speed in effect, your are eligible for a fine if you drive slower than it, regardless if you chose not to follow it because a car in front of you was not following it.
    – Itai
    Jul 23, 2017 at 20:55
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    In California CVC 22400 makes driving too slow a violation. On a 2 lane highway the reason it is rude not to overtake when you can is that it makes things harder for the drivers behind you who now have to get past both of you. If you don't pass stay a very long way behind to leave space for passers between you and the car you are following.
    – user38879
    Jul 23, 2017 at 20:55
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    P.S. this is maybe relevant.
    – user38879
    Jul 23, 2017 at 20:58
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    Don't over think it. A driver is not required to pass a slow moving vehicle, but, you then also risk being cited for reckless driving or driving under the minimum speed limit unless you demonstrate to the Officer that passing would have been unsafe.
    – DTRT
    Jul 24, 2017 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


It is never illegal to not overtake (pass).

The law would never force a driver to overtake under any circumstances (however, a police officer standing there could request you to).

  • In jurisdictions with minimum speed limits, you are still breaking the law by driving below the limit if the opportunity to safely overtake presents itself. In New Jersey, for example, it is not unheard of to receive a warning (or a ticket for repeated violations) for "obstructing passage of other vehicles," also known as "obstruction of traffic," when caught driving too slow on the highway, regardless of whether the driver ahead of you is also breaking the law. As with collective speeding, so with collective obstructing—not everyone will get pulled over, but occasionally someone does.
    – Cosmo
    Nov 6, 2023 at 23:26

It's not illegal to not pass, but in some jurisdiction it may be illegal to go too slow. The fact that another vehicle is also going too slow may not be considered a reason for you to be going too slow, particularly if it was safe and legal for you to pass.

Someone else was doing it is seldom a viable defense.

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