You’re driving the speed limit in a U.S. state with an absolute speed limit (e.g., Florida). You need to change lanes. A vehicle behind you in that lane is exceeding the speed limit. Who has the right of way?

(Note: No vehicles were harmed in the making of this question. No one hit anything.)

  • 3
    There are two separate and distinct offenses. He is guilty of speeding. You are guilty of careless driving (that's what it would be called in the UK, I'm sure there will be a similarly named equivalent in the US). Your best bet is to develop a sense of self preservation, use your mirrors and judge if it is safe to change lanes or not. Whether or not someone else is breaking the law does not impact on whether pulling in front of a faster moving vehicle is safe or dangerous (clue: it's the second one)
    – Darren H
    Jun 20, 2017 at 6:40
  • Again in the UK, if you are considering making a move, it's your responsibility to do so in a safe way, even if one of the potential hazards arises from someone else behaving illegally.
    – TripeHound
    Jun 20, 2017 at 11:27

3 Answers 3


The vehicle occupying the lane has right of way i.e. if you merge and cause a collision, you are liable. The fact that the other driver was in breach of the road rules as well as you is immaterial.

If you rephrased the question to be "A vehicle behind you in that lane is exceeding the speed limit - can I exceed the speed limit too?" you would see why.

"Because they were breaking the law I should be allowed to" is not a defence that has any prospect of being successful. The law says you must give way when merging, so give way when merging.

  • 2
    @Frungi No, its your failure to account for his unsafe speed that caused it.
    – Dale M
    Jun 20, 2017 at 1:58
  • 3
    @Frungi Please explain how by speeding and making yourself liable for a fine and greatly increasing your own risk of injury or death can be considered an "advantage"?
    – Dale M
    Jun 20, 2017 at 2:07
  • 1
    @Frungi putting aside the legal considerations - do you really want to be 'dead' right?
    – Dale M
    Jun 20, 2017 at 2:09
  • 1
    Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Dale M
    Jun 20, 2017 at 2:16
  • 1
    @Frungi Advantage? Is driving a competition?
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2017 at 3:30

In California, and I would guess most other states, many items about right of way in the vehicle code will end with the phrase "until he or she can proceed with reasonable safety." It's one of the basic rules of the road. If you cannot do something safely, then you can't do it. If you can't change lanes safely, for any reason, then you can't change lanes.

Consider another example. You are waiting at an intersection. You have a red light. The light changes to green, but it is obvious to you that one of the cars in the cross traffic that now has the red light is not going to stop. You have a green light, can you go? No, you can't go. Not until the red light runner has passed through. If you can't proceed safely, you can't go.


I mostly agree with @DaleM. However, the police/insurance companies could possibly say it's the speeder's fault. For example, if the other driver was driving 150 mph then you might claim that you couldn't reasonably have seen them because they were overtaking you so quickly. This argument would never fly for 10 mph over the limit though.

I understand your desire for everyone to obey the law. However, if you are someday accidentally driving 46 mph in a 45 mph zone, do you want all the other drivers to have carte blanche to cut you off?

  • No, I wouldn’t mind having to slow down by 1 mph, which there would be ample time to do. The problem comes when you would gain several car lengths in the time it takes to make the lane change.
    – Frungi
    Jun 21, 2017 at 3:16
  • There wouldn't necessarily be ample time. What if the lane changer was only 1 foot ahead of you?
    – James
    Jun 21, 2017 at 11:29
  • One foot between? That’s a dumb time to initiate a lane change regardless of anything else. I thought we were talking a couple car lengths, or one car length at the very least. Guess I never made that clear, but I was trying to change lanes at what would have been a safe and proper distance behind me at normal speeds. So to answer what you meant by your question: No, I wouldn’t want much slower drivers to keep cutting me off, and I would be frustrated and confused by the fact that everyone seems to do so constantly because I’m an idiot who can’t read speed limits.
    – Frungi
    Jun 21, 2017 at 22:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .