6 Montana Traffic Laws Drivers Commonly Ignore

Motorists in Montana ignore some traffic laws more than others, like the prohibition on tailgating or the requirement to pass on the left.

Montana traffic laws were enacted to help ensure everyone can safely travel on state roads. Every Montana driver needs to understand and comply with all the state’s traffic laws when they get behind the wheel. However, many individuals fail to adhere to standard rules of the road, endangering other travelers.

We’ve listed six of the most commonly ignored Montana traffic laws below. You’ll find a brief description of the law and how to avoid getting tickets for violating these rules.

Read more in the following resources:

1. Montana Slower Traffic Keep Right Law: The “Move Over” Rule

With a few exceptions, you must stay in the right lane when driving on a Montana highway. You can move to the left in some instances, such as passing another vehicle or making a left turn.

Upon all roadways having two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction, a vehicle must be driven in the right-hand lane.

A vehicle being operated upon a roadway having two or more lanes for traffic moving in the same direction is not required to be driven in the right-hand lane when:

  • Overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
  • Traveling at a speed greater than the traffic flow;
  • Moving left to allow traffic to merge;
  • Traveling on a roadway within the official boundaries of a city or town
  • Preparing for a left turn;
  • Exiting onto a left-hand exit from a controlled-access highway;
  • An obstruction or hazardous conditions make it necessary to drive in a lane other than the right-hand lane;
  • Road or vehicle conditions make it safer to drive in a lane other than the right-hand lane; or
  • Authorized snow-removal equipment is operating on the roadway.

MCA 61-8-321

2. Montana Flow of Traffic Law: The “Minimum Speed” Rule

Montana has not set a statewide minimum speed. Still, you must always drive fast enough to not impede traffic flow unless you need to drive slower for safety or to follow the law. If a minimum speed is posted, you must maintain at least that pace unless it is unsafe or you need to slow down to comply with the law.

If you are driving on a two-lane highway at a pace slower than the speed of traffic, you may have to pull off the road to let other drivers get by. When your slow pace creates a backup of four or more vehicles behind you, and the other vehicles cannot pass on the left due to traffic or road conditions, you must pull over and let the other vehicles pass.

A person may not drive a motor vehicle at a speed slow enough to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of oncoming traffic or other conditions, the operator of a slow-moving vehicle behind which four or more vehicles are formed in line shall turn off the roadway to permit the vehicles following it to proceed. A slow-moving vehicle is one that is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.

If the department of transportation or local authorities within their respective jurisdictions determine that slow speeds on any part of a highway impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, the commission or the local authority may set a minimum speed limit below which a person may not operate a vehicle except when necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

MCA 61-8-311

3. Montana Driving in Left Lane Law: The “Passing on the Left” Rule

You must pass on the left when you overtake slower traffic on Montana roads. When passing, you cannot cut off the other driver. Instead, you must fully clear the overtaken vehicle before moving back to the right.

To pass on a two-lane road, you must first ensure there is no oncoming traffic on the left side. You can only start to pass if you can finish without interfering with any vehicles traveling in the opposite direction.

If a driver behind you signals that they intend to pass, you must give them the space to do so. You cannot speed up until they have overtaken your car or truck. Additionally, when it is safe, you can use the shoulder to allow more space for the other driver to pass.

The operator of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle shall pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance and may not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the operator of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle upon an audible signal or the use of signal lamps and may not increase the speed of the vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

When giving way to the right on a two-lane highway, the operator of the vehicle being overtaken may travel upon the shoulder at a safe speed until passed if the shoulder is wide enough and is in a condition allowing safe travel.

MCA 61-8-323

A vehicle may not be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle unless the left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit the overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the safe operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle overtaken.

MCA 61-8-325

4. Montana Rear-End Collision Law: The “Following Too Closely” Rule

Montana has not set a specified distance you must leave between you and the car in front of you. Instead, illegal tailgating occurs anytime you follow more closely than is “reasonable and prudent.”

The required space between cars will vary based on traffic and road conditions, as well as the other car’s speed.

The driver of a motor vehicle may not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the roadway.

MCA 61-8-329

5. Montana Four-Way Intersection Law: The “4-Way Stop” Rule

If two vehicles arrive at a Montana intersection at the same time, the left-side driver must yield the right-of-way. This means that the driver to the right gets to proceed first. You cannot move through an intersection until all traffic that is close enough to cause a safety hazard has cleared.

At a three-way intersection, the driver on the road that is ending must yield the right-of-way.

When two or more vehicles enter or approach an intersection from different highways, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the right that are close enough to constitute an immediate hazard.

The driver of a vehicle on a highway that intersects another highway without crossing it shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the other highway that are close enough to constitute an immediate hazard.

MCA 61-8-339

6. Montana Left Turn Intersection Law: The “Right of Way” Rule

When turning left, Montana law does not allow you to cut across oncoming traffic and create a hazard. You must yield the right-of-way to any vehicles traveling in the opposite direction before you make a left turn.

Once it is safe and you have signaled your intention to make a left turn, you can begin the turn. Any other vehicles in the oncoming lanes must yield the right-of-way to you until you complete the turn.

The operator of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction that is within the intersection or close enough to the intersection to constitute an immediate hazard.

Once the operator has yielded and provided the operator is giving a signal, the operator may make the left turn and the operators of all other vehicles approaching the intersection from the opposite direction shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle making the left turn.

MCA 61-8-340

Montana may have fewer restrictions on its highways than other states, but that does not mean there are no rules. The traffic code helps to prevent dangerous auto accidents and protect motorists and passengers. So, keep these six rules of the road in mind the next time you’re traveling.

Amy Grover is a licensed attorney in the state of Ohio. After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, then passing the bar exam in 2014, Amy began her diverse career as a practicing attorney. Amy has a range of experience in the legal field, including work with the Department... Read More >>