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Can I get pulled over for crossing the double lines to pass another vehicle? I thought they were just a suggestion. — Rob, Peterborough, Ont.

If you cross the double line on a highway in most of Canada, you'll have crossed the line.

We checked the driving laws in every province and territory — it's illegal to cross the double line everywhere, except Ontario.

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"In Ontario, lane markings generally serve an advisory or warning function and by themselves do not possess any legal force," writes Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) spokesman Bob Nichols in an email statement.

Ontario's Highway Traffic Act is the only act that doesn't specifically ban crossing the double line. Crossing it is not illegal — but it's still a lousy idea.

"A solid line is a restrictive marking that is meant to signal to the driver that passing is unsafe," Nichols says. "So it could mean that there is insufficient passing sight distance or other operational concerns such as the presence of intersecting roads nearby."

No free pass on unsafe passing

That doesn't mean you get a free pass to pass anytime. If there's a sign saying no passing, then passing's not allowed, Nichols says.

It's up to police to decide what to charge you with. And, even without a sign, they could charge you under section 148 of the Highway Traffic Act if you try to pass when it's not safe.

Section 149 applies too, Nichols says. It says you can't cross the centre line when nearing a hill, curve, bridge or tunnel where you can't see if there's oncoming traffic.

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Everywhere else, a solid double line is like Gandalf. You shall not pass.

The different traffic laws all make similar points, but the law in the Northwest Territories says it most concisely. Section 179 c of the Motor Vehicle Act says: "Where there is a solid line or where there is a broken and solid line together and the solid line is on the right-hand side of the broken line, (a driver) shall not cross the solid line except to make a left-hand turn, or to enter a roadway."

Remember your lines

Generally, yellow lines separate traffic going in opposite directions. White lines separate lanes of traffic going in the same direction. If there's a broken line, you can cross it to pass.

Most provinces treat a solid line the same, whether it's single or double — you're not allowed to cross.

But there are a few exemptions for single solid lines. Alberta's law says on highways in urban areas, you can cross a single solid line to pass.

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In B.C. and Nova Scotia, the law says you can cross a solid single line to pass — as long as you can do it safely.

"A single solid yellow line marking the centre of a highway permits passing in either direction when traffic, sight distance, and other conditions are ideal," says Nova Scotia's Driver's Handbook.

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