[NSW] Who Has The Right Way When Presented with This Highway Scenario?

When two cars are driving parallel in the outside lanes of a three-lane motorway, who has priority to move to the middle first?

Few days ago I was presented in this exact situation; picture a 3 lanes motorway; empty; 110 speed limit; left lane 1 car, central lane empty, right lane 1 car.

I was in the overtaking lane (far right) and got this car tailgating me, wanting me to get the {profanity} out of my way. I did notice there's a car on the slow lane (far left) driving almost at the same speed as me (so we're talking about 110 km/h). I activated by blinker signalling left and waited because my gut feel is the car on the left lane about to go to the central lane .. so after a sec or two … nothing .. so i went to the central lane … AND yes as expected, the car on the left lane also went to the central lane. it almost happened … but luckily it didn't …

so what's the go here? who's at fault?

EDIT Update your post to say you were just overtaking a car in the middle lane. Otherwise, you will get blasted in 3.2.1..*

and the car from the left lane wanted to overtake a car in front of him by going to the central lane … i noticed this hence my hesitation; just a matter on timing so i waited and waited … then the moment i decided, the left lane car also decided .. so both of us went …


  • I have often wondered the same thing. Sorry, not much help!

    • Easy. In that circumstance neither vehicle is required to give way to the other. But both are negligent if they fail to reasonably avoid a collision. You're not supposed to go somewhere unless you are looking to make sure it is safe to do so. So if there was a collision neither would be charged with failure to give way, but both would be charged with negligent or careless driving unless they were unable to give an satisfactory explanation.

  • This scenario happens a lot. Especially when a new entrance to the motorway approaches & people from the left change to the middle lane to avoid the slower vehicle entering. Is that when this occurred?

    I would say whoever enters first into the lane or overtake a bit further up & don't change lanes, especially when in a blind spot. it's a hard one.

    Why were both you & the tailgater in the right lane if the motorway was nearly empty with no cars in the middle lane?

    • Why were both you & the tailgater in the right lane if the motorway was nearly empty with no cars in the middle lane?

      sorry, i might have misled you … it wasn't empty empty like that … simply put i needed to overtake a car hence i was on the overtaking lane.

      • Ok.

        I would just put the blinker on & further overtake the car in the left lane so they can see easier that you are changing lanes, check blind spot while changing. Just to avoid the whole situation.

        Edit Update your post to say you were just overtaking a car in the middle lane. Otherwise, you will get blasted in 3.2.1..

        • What if.. the speed limit on that road is 110 kmph.. OP and the car on the left lane were on 110 kmph.
          If OP speeds up to "further overtake the car in the left lane so they can see easier that you are changing lanes", then OP is speeding and there is a risk of getting caught.
          I know not very likely and have to check the situation, but still technically it is a possibility and has that risk, though probably its riskier not to do it (to avoid potential crash merging to the middle both cars at the same time).

          However, let's say OP does that and gets caught by police. Would this reasoning be a valid one and let OP off the hook?

          • @OzFrugie: No, you can’t exceed the posted speed limit in order to overtake.
            If someone is tailgating you even though you are going precisely at the speed of 110 (your speedometer reads 113 give or take but this depends on the vehicle) on the right hand lane on a multi-lane road, they usually overtake you from the middle/left lane.
            If they don’t, they have to be patient until the cat in front of them leaves the lane. I see this situation all the time. Slow moving cars blocking the flow of the right-hand lane on multi-lane motorways.

          • @OzFrugie:

            If OP speeds up to "further overtake the car
            Would this reasoning be a valid one and let OP off the hook?

            This is like one of the first rules in the driver's handbook. No, you can't speed for any reason.

      • If you were about to overtake and were doing the speed limit you should've just stayed in the right hand lane and let the tailgater wait the extra few seconds.

        • tailgater wait the extra few seconds.

          That's too long lol.

        • overtaking was done say 5 seconds earlier … so the central lane is now empty.

          as i've now completed my overtaking action, i needed to go to central lane and let the overtaking lane empty for other speedsters right?

          • @tempura: It's not about other users in the right, it's about keeping left above 80k

          • @tempura: Despite what you will read on social media, there is no legal obligation to hurry back to the middle lane so that illegally speeding drivers can overtake you.

            If you are doing the speed limit in the right hand lane you have every right to remain there until it is safe to merge back. After all, nobody can legally overtake you if you are doing the speed limit.

            The problem in this scenario is not you or the car in the left lane doing the speed limit, it is the car tailgating you and trying to speed, and the car in the middle lane not keeping left, presumably driving under the limit.

            • @Lurk Hartog: The problem is

              centre lane empty

              OP should not have been in the fast lane if the centre lane was empty.

              • @Euphemistic: OP clarified… There wasn't a car directly next to him, but he was overtaking a car that was now further back.

                "sorry, i might have misled you … it wasn't empty empty like that … simply put i needed to overtake a car hence i was on the overtaking lane"

            • @Lurk Hartog: My understanding is that when you are travelling on a road with a limit greater than 80kph (i.e. 90kph+), you are supposed to move to the left to let the other car pass.

              If you believe you are going the speed limit, that has nothing to do with it. It's not your job to slow down other cars who may want to exceed the limit (even though what they're doing is illegal).

              I agree though that the car in the right lane should only move to the left when it is safe to do so.

              • @ozssc: Agreed. And in this instance it was not yet safe for OP to merge back to the centre lane as he is anticipating that the car in the far left lane may do the same.

                Hence he is well within his rights to wait.

  • Sounds like you should have been over in the middle lane earlier from that description however for whatever reason you weren't and you had another car remind you to move left. Changing lanes in Vic and I assume most states is pretty clear;

    Changing lanes
    You must give way to vehicles in the lane or line of traffic, when you change from a lane marked with lines, to another.

    This rule applies when crossing over any broken line on the road showing that the lane ends, e.g. merging into freeway traffic.

    So reading that you indicated and the lane was clear when you checked but hesitated (defensively so not so bad imho) then the free lane was taken, in those instances it's give way basically and common sense. It's not fun I'll admit and it does occur from time to time the more highway k's you do. As the old saying goes don't trust anyone else on the road, you did hesitate but it may have avoided something, who knows, point is you use the give way rule and check if it's clear in this case I would also take Indication as the lane not being clear as they are indicating intention to move into it.

  • +3 votes

    When changing lanes, both vehicles should only do so when safe to change. Indicate early, and keep checking for actions by other drivers/vehicles.

    The bigger question is why did both vehicles need to change?
    - The car in the left lane may have wanted to change to the centre lane to avoid upcoming slower or merging traffic, but it is also possible for that car to slow if it is not safe to change to the centre lane.
    - Why was OP in the right lane? If the middle lane was empty, this should be the lane that driver was in.

      • Why was OP in the right lane? If the middle lane was empty, this should be the lane that driver was in.


  • https://cdn.newsapi.com.au/image/v1/9821a7e2b6e189af9503ba31...

    50% each. Both drivers pays for their own excess.

  • I need a diagram before I can provide an answer.

  • So, read a few of OP's responses to comments and the edited scenario.

    Nothing happened = no-one was at fault.

    • If anything, good defensive behavior was displayed by both drivers not occupying the lane. Wanting to get left and being conscious with multiple shoulder checks and spatial awareness in a multilane scenario. OP wanted to know who has priority and I believe the rule I quoted shows that in a simple way, hence question has been answered and OP is better for it as well as some others potentially reading the thread.

    • OP may have asked "who is at fault?", so technically you're correct, but it's very obvious he's asking a hypothetical question as to who would be at fault.

      • +2 votes

        Who would be at fault if what happened?
        If the car from the right took evasive action but was hit by the speeding car on their right/rear?
        If the car from the left braked suddenly and was tail ended by a following car?
        If the driver of the car from the left was startled, braked hard, spilt their coffee onto their lap, etc., etc.?

        Nothing happened.

        The actual road rules that apply have been described by plenty of other contributors here. What should have happened effectively did; both drivers took evasive action to avoid an accident.

        • Hmmmm yea ok. Very good reply. I like it. Fair.

          Edit: Looking at this again, I interpreted the question more specifically as, "if we both had merged and there was an accident, who would've been at fault?" which ties in to understanding "who has right of way".

          • @illumination:

            … there was an accident, who would've been at fault?" which ties in to understanding "who has right of way".

            No, ties into understanding who failed to give way. There is no ‘right of way’. Subtle difference, but important. In this potential incident both cars failed to give way. If this occurred at the exact same time, there would probably be 50/50 blame apportioned.

            • @Euphemistic: Yes agreed. I mean, the question being who has right of way can still be asked but as you said, the answer is there is no right of way and therefore, if that situation eventuated then it being 50/50 apportioned blame makes sense.

  • OP, simplest solution is just to slow down and let the other car be in front of you, then you can just switch lane without any hesitation, providing it's safe and you have checked your blind spot too!!

    The problem I notice sometime is that both drivers (like in your cases here) are both hot headed that they drive in the same speed, cautiously thinking: "is he/she going to switch lane first or not?"

    Problem solved if you can be a bit more calm and let the other driver passed you first, so you can change lane after that.


    • 'hot headed'


      Does not compute. You are clearly projecting your own crap onto the OP and making it up as you go along. Nobody who is 'hot headed' will even consider the other driver and will simply take the space immediately.

    • problem solved if you can be a bit more calm and let the other driver passed you first, so you can change lane after that.

      did you even read the post? why should I let the other driver pass? which rule says that?

      • I did. And I know maybe my reply is not what you expected i.e you want to hear who is, by law, supposed to give the lane first etc.

        I just encourage you to be calmer, this kind of issue get into our head sometime..but it's not really a critical one.what even worse is, it can result in deadly accident.

        The message "toward zero" is commonly ignored, some of my mates actually say it's impossible and useless. But I personally feel, it's a strong message and we have to go toward zero.

        Just be calmer next time, there's no need to always find out who is right and wrong, life is more than that.

      • Not the person who you're replying to, but their solution is the most correct and safest in that scenario.

        which rule says that?

        It's not about rules or priority. If you and the other car got into an accident, both would be equally at fault. The question should be, what can YOU do to avoid it? Simply drive defensively ie. either you slow down or speed up so that it's not possible for either of you to merge into the same lane.

        why should I let the other driver pass?

        Also, what's wrong with letting the other driver pass? You make it sound like it's a race? Does it hurt your ego to slow down?

  • The answer isn't straight forward. If an impact had occurred, a number of things would be factored in when making a decision. Generally, if it can be determined who was first into the lane, they will be in the clear from a negligence stand point. Using things like damage points on the car, witness statements etc could help determine it and in cases where you just cannot split who has done what, then the most likely outcome would be EBO (Each Bear Own) where the damages to your car are your responsibility and the other driver looks after theirs.

    Source: 13yrs of working for a motor vehicle insurer making liability decisions.

  • I have dashcam footage of this happening to me. I was in the left lane merging right, another car slightly in front of me merged left from right lane.

    Wife yelled at me after saying I would be at fault if we had a collision because I honked and could see the car coming and didn't avoid it…I argued they shouldn't change lanes unsafely…we agreed to disagree.

    • So he was in front of you?

      • Yeah, front right lane. Half a car-ish? Let me upload it…

        • So was the changing lane maneuver giving way to traffic in the lane or line of traffic? Sounds like your wife should have been driving.

        • That might make it clearer :)

          • @wiipantz: I think you could argue both sides. I just happened to be changing lanes in his blindspot when he was changing lanes also. Only reason we didn't make contact was because I slowed and beeped, then he realised.

            It's a timing thing as the OP and many people have commented.

            • @John Kimble: Yeah that footage because of the angle almost looks like they were behind. Once again as Op you both sorta practiced defensive behaviors, which tbh is good to see. It is frustrating and there is some gray to it but if the lane isn't clear then don't do it as that shows both sorta backed off, if not closely. I would been angry too, but seeing them back off would have calmed me known at least they were should checking I would braked then moved on with life tbh. Thanks for the upload, good example of this occurrence which as stated just happens from time to time.

            • @John Kimble: Oh sorry, I just saw you beeped to make them realise. Stuff that, they suck. You still should be shoulder checking once moving lanes. I thought they realised and was giving benefit of the doubt, being in front makes it slightly onerous for you, however you did the right things. Also that F head getting in the following distance is the real loser there :(

  • I had this same situation when I first got my license only it was with a truck. I was in the right and he was in the left and we both merged. Since then I always now watch the left lane and if they are looking to overtake I will wait until I'm past them. Other people might not like waiting for me to merge but I'd rather not die so I dont care.

    • When I was learning I got taught the rules but then got taught some 'tips' that was one of them. Another one was when entering dual carriage way and the inner lane is clear but the outer isn't if you can wait until they pass that is safer as with the theme of this post they may change lanes on you and then youre T-boned(of course be mindful of cars behind you wanting to enter also). Also on roundabouts look at the front wheels as indicators can lie!

  • Just my usual: no one has right of way. It is a concept that does not exist in traffic law. In most situations there is a responsibility to give way in some sort of priority order.

    Both vehicles need to give way when changing lanes. Who gives way first the n this instance isn’t written in the law AFAIK but IANAL.

    It’s a bit like when a couple of cars arrive at a four way stop sign at once, there is usually a bit of a standoff then one car will go while he others hesitate a little longer.

    • no one has right of way.

      Saw the title and was immediately *TRIGGERED* and came here to look for your comment or to post the same thing.

      No one has "right of way" in this scenario. Now, what OP should have asked was "Who has to give way in this scenario".

      • Toh-mate-toe, toh-mart-toh

        • "Right of way" pertains to crossing over others land to access your own property.

          Used incorrectly in the road rules framework gives the impression that someone has a "right" or "more of a right" to "do" something over another party.

          Toh-mate-toe, toh-mart-toh

          Bad example, since the obligation to give way under traffic rules has nothing to do with your rights to access your land locked property.

          I think the SA Road Rules readers guide sums it up pretty well by saying;

          Obligation to give way

          There are a number of rules requiring a driver to give way to another driver or a pedestrian. However, under the Rules the other driver or pedestrian does not have a "right" of way.

          What I think you meant to say was;

          Poh-Tay-Toe, Toh-Mart-Toe

      • Checked the thread for reference before posting.

    • I hate those four way stop sign intersections!

  • Neither.

    Worry more about self preservation than whether you are "in the right" to merge honestly.

  • Why were you sitting in the right lane?

      • You, you said you were in the far right lane…..

        • i already said why i was on the far right lane…

          • @tempura: Your opening post conflicts with all your comments or at least doesn't make it clear. Not searching through each individual post to see your information spread throughout.

            Wheres the paint diagram?

            From your original post just sounds like your sitting in the right lane, then feel like merging back into the central lane. Why would you be driving parallel and from the sounds of it at the same speed as the car in the far left lane. That's just asking for problems.

            • @iTaco:

              Why would you be driving parallel and from the sounds of it at the same speed as the car in the far left lane.

              Because most people drive the speed limit? What kind of question is that?

              • @John Kimble: Because hardly anyone travels at the same speed. Speedo differences, personal tolerance to fines, rushing, cruising all make a difference to the speed travelled at. Most people drive NEAR the speed limit.

              • @John Kimble: No one knows what speed both cars were doing.
                OP said about 110km. Speedos aren't accurate and there's going to be a difference between cars.
                Either OP could have sped up to 110/12, not 'about' 110 and staying level with the car leading to a side by side collision.
                OP could have just backed off, said stuff the guy tail gating and waited for a better space to merge clear from the "slow lane" car like OP refereed to it.

                Like a bit of awareness goes a long way on the roads.

  • In my opinion. It's important to note there is no "right of way", only a responsibility to give way in certain circumstances. The "overarching" responsibility is to avoid a collision. This is an important distinction, because if there had have been a collision in the circumstance you are trying to describe (both level, both changing lanes at the exact same time), you would both have been responsible. This is because neither of you took the required evasive action.

    • See, it's comments like this need to be upvoted and pinned to the top. None of this "give way to right" and "right of way" malarkey that so often gets spewed forth erroneously and at the top of the thread.

  • I'm not a New South Welshman but I don't think either lane has right of way to go in. Go in if it's clear, wait if it's not.

    If you both want to go in at the same time, either one of you can and should decide to let the other in first. There's no rule that I know of that the right lane has priority over the left or vice versa.

    It will be like waiting on the ramp of the freeway for the green light. There will be two of you and you're about to merge into one lane. One of you will have to go ahead of the other. Decide between yourselves if you're going to lead or follow. Neither of you has priority over the other. Be reactive to be safe.

    • There’s no easy way to say “hey, nah mate you go first”, so you’re really simply needing to keep your eyes on the other player and if someone else is merging, pull out yourself.

      A problem however arises, like happened to me the other day on the way north, a bully behind me started overtaking before I had fully left the right hand lane, after I had finished overtaking a car in the middle lane. Imagine a car was pulling into lane 2 from lane 1 in that scenario and didn’t give me room to merge! Car sandwich!

      • yeah people are unpredictable sometimes.

        I've had people try to turn left from the right lane while I am in the left lane going straight. They cross into my path and if not for good reaction time, would have hit him. Then he would have blamed me for hitting him.

        There’s no easy way to say “hey, nah mate you go first”

        You don't need to tell them to go first. Just watch them and react to what they do. If they're slow, they are waiting for you, if they're faster, let them go first.

        It's a bit like when two pedestrians are about to walk into each other head on. Sometimes you both step out of the way, and then find yourself in each others way again, then both of you step back. Just wait and see if the other person is going to step aside, and if they don't, then you do it.

  • Sailing rules apply.

    If your mast is in front of their bow, you have buoy room, and therefore right of way.

    So, if your steering wheel is in front of their bonnet, you’re good to rocket.

    Disclaimer- obviously sailing rules don’t apply to the road.