Keeping to the Right

I live in Chilliwack BC. There are several roads here that have two lanes of traffic moving in each direction. My question is: Is the left lane reserved only for passing other vehicles or can one drive there even if they aren't passing anyone? The speed limit on all of these types of roads is 50 kph.

Answer

This is a question that has caused confusion for many drivers, including me. Let's have a close look at it. First, some definitions:

"roadway" means the portion of the highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, but does not include the shoulder, and if a highway includes 2 or more separate roadways, the term "roadway" refers to any one roadway separately and not to all of them collectively;

"laned roadway" means a roadway or the part of a roadway that is divided into 2 or more marked lanes for the movement of vehicular traffic in the same direction;

Shoulder does not appear to be defined in either the Motor Vehicle Act or the Transportation Act. It is the area to the right of the solid white line on the right edge of the roadway, or in the absence of that line, the edge of the pavement. On divided highways, there is also a shoulder on the left edge of the roadway to the left of the solid yellow line.

With that out of the way, we can move on to the first of our laws:

Driver on right

150  (1) The driver of a vehicle must confine the course of the vehicle to the right hand half of the roadway if the roadway is of sufficient width and it is practicable to do so, except

(a) when overtaking and passing a vehicle proceeding in the same direction,

(b) when the right hand half of the roadway is closed to traffic while under construction or repair,

(c) on a highway designated and marked by signs for one way traffic,

(d) if necessary when operating snow removing equipment, or

(e) if

(i)   the movement of a vehicle, or combination of vehicles, is permitted by and is done in conformity with the terms of the oversize permit issued under the Commercial Transport Act, and

(ii)   the width of a vehicle, or combination of vehicles, or the width of a load on the vehicle makes the operation of the vehicle or combination of vehicles on the right hand half of the roadway unsafe.

(2) The driver of a vehicle proceeding at less than normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing must drive the vehicle in the right hand lane then available for traffic, or as closely as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing a vehicle proceeding in the same direction, or when preparing for a left hand turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

(3) The driver of a vehicle passing around a rotary traffic island must drive the vehicle to the right of the island.

I think that this section was probably part of the Act when it was first created and then expanded on as highways became more complex. Let's look at the simplest example of a highway first.

single lane road

If this highway is wide enough, meaning two vehicle widths or more wide, then a driver must drive on the right hand half. Clearly, if the highway is less than two vehicle widths wide, then you cannot travel in the right hand half as you are physically too wide to do so. Caution would be necessary and failing to exercise it would likely bring into play things like Driving Without Reasonable Consideration for Others Using the Roadway or Driving Without Due Care and Attention.

The first improvement over this situation is laned roadway.

two lane highway

This also introduces more law.

Driving on laned roadway

151  A driver who is driving a vehicle on a laned roadway

(a) must not drive it from one lane to another when a broken line only exists between the lanes, unless the driver has ascertained that movement can be made with safety and will in no way affect the travel of another vehicle,

(b) must not drive it from one lane to another if that action necessitates crossing a solid line,

(c) must not drive it from one lane to another without first signalling his or her intention to do so by hand and arm or approved mechanical device in the manner prescribed by sections 171 and 172,

(d) when approaching an intersection intending to turn left must drive the vehicle in the centre lane or in the lane nearest the centre of the roadway on the right hand half of the highway,

(e) when approaching an intersection intending to turn right must drive the vehicle in the lane nearest to the right hand side of the roadway,

(f) must not pass a vehicle on the left if that action necessitates driving on that part of the highway designated for travel in the opposite direction, and

(g) if a traffic control device directs slow moving traffic to use a designated lane, must when driving slowly drive the vehicle in that lane only.

Highway lines

155  (1) Despite anything in this Part, if a highway is marked with

(a) a solid double line, the driver of a vehicle must drive it to the right of the line only,

(b) a double line consisting of a broken line and a solid line,

(i)   the driver of a vehicle proceeding along the highway on the side of the broken line must drive the vehicle to the right of the double line, except when passing an overtaken vehicle, and

(ii)   the driver of a vehicle proceeding along the highway on the side of the solid line must drive the vehicle to the right of the double line, except only when finishing the passing of an overtaken vehicle, and

(c) one single line, broken or solid, the driver of a vehicle must drive the vehicle to the right of the line, except only when passing an overtaken vehicle.

(2) Subsection (1) (b) (i) and (c) do not apply if a driver is avoiding an obstruction on the highway and first ascertains that the movement can be made with safety and without affecting the travel of any other vehicle.

Suspension of sections 151 and 155

156  If the driver of a vehicle is causing the vehicle to enter or leave a highway and the driver has ascertained that he or she might do so with safety and does so without unreasonably affecting the travel of another vehicle, the provisions of sections 151 and 155 are suspended with respect to the driver while the vehicle is entering or leaving the highway.

This places more specific restrictions on how a driver driver must place their vehicle on the highway when they are using it. Section 150 is not forgotten and also applies, it is just supplemented by sections 151 and 155. One must still drive on the right hand half except as directed.

More complicated still are multiple laned highways.

highway with center barrier

I must admit, this is where I become unsure. I've done some searching without result on where the roadway is here. Is it between the two single solid white lines or is this two separate roadways between the single solid yellow line on the left and the single solid white line on the right? If it is the former, you can choose which of the two lanes you wish to drive in, subject to having to move out of the left lane when overtaken by faster traffic. If it is the latter, you much confine your travel to the right lane unless taking advantage of the provisions of sections 151 and 155.

Finally, we come to the freeway.

freeway

This is clearly two separate roadways as the median is not improved for vehicular traffic. So, with section 150 in mind, we are back to being required to drive in the right hand lane except when taking advantage of sections 151 and 155.

One last thought, and that is when the highway is posted with a traffic control device that requires that you travel in the right hand lane.

keep right except to pass sign
keep right road sign

Here another section of the Motor Vehicle Act applies.

Obeying traffic controls

125  Unless otherwise directed by a peace officer or a person authorized by a peace officer to direct traffic, every driver of a vehicle and every pedestrian must obey the instructions of an applicable traffic control device.

It does not matter what speed is posted on the highway, these rules apply in all speed zones.

Note:  I intend to update this answer when I am able to find more information about the situation with the concrete median barrier.

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