Overtaking other road users or obstructions is the manouvre that is a major cause of road traffic incidents. Overtaking carried out incorrectly creates substantial risk due to the fact you will be positioning and driving on or towards the opposite side of the road possibly towards other road users.

You must not overtake where to do so would be illegal , such as when a sign prohibits it, or by doing so you exceed the legal speed limit, the lead motor vehicle on the approach to a pedestrian crossing , within a solid white line system *, on the approach to a school crossing patrol , or level crossing . There is an extensive list within the Highway Code .

Prohibitive no overtaking sign

In addition some places are never suitable, such as if your view ahead is blocked by a road feature ( hump back bridge ) or obstruction, if other drivers might not be able to see you , not enough room , road narrows ahead, approaching a junction and / or if there is ‘dead ground’ ahead such as a dip in the road which might hide an oncoming vehicle.

Only overtake if it is necessary . There is no point in overtaking if you are turning off that road shortly afterwards .

Judgement of speed and distance and good planning are very important to carry out a successful overtake. So the actual speed of the vehicle you intend to overtake must be assessed correctly on your approach , it may take you more distance than you thought to be able to complete a safe overtake. The smaller the speed differential with the vehicle you are overtaking the longer it will take to get past and move back in safely .

If you realise there is a slower moving vehicle ahead , let’s say a tractor, then the following are the steps DVSA advise you to take :

Mirror be aware of the situation behind and look well ahead.

Signal give a signal if it will help drivers behind, the road user you are overtaking and oncoming road users.

PSL (Position ,speed, look). Position near enough to the vehicle ahead to gain the best view and be able to begin the overtake at the right speed in the right gear ( you may need to change down to get enough power) . Ensure you have enough reserve speed to carry out the manouvre . If you position too close you will limit your view ahead and also cause concern to the driver in front and cause danger . It maybe advantageous to position slightly toward the centre line If safe to do so , to gain extra vision ahead , so what I’d call a hold back position ( you can always get back in if need be) .

Look , assess ahead and the vehicle you are overtaking, has anything changed ? So the speed of the vehicle you are intending to overtake, hazards ahead , road conditions , presence and speed of oncoming vehicles . Check your mirrors and if necessary check to your right with a sideways glance to cover blindspots.

Planning an overtake . Would you do it once the yellow car passed ? There is some vision on the bend but by the time the yellow car passes the opportunity is lost so the driver of the white car should drop back and look for the next opportunity .

Overtake on a smooth easy line as promptly as you can within the legal limit for that section of road. Only overtake if it is safe to do so. If something changes you need to reassess and start the process again.

Ensure you are well past the vehicle you are overtaking by using your mirrors then signal to move back in and do so smoothly and without affecting the vehicle you have overtaken . Keep aware of what’s ahead.

If you are being overtaken, never speed up or take it personally . If need be you may have to slow down to allow the overtaking vehicle back in if they have misjudged the situation ahead. Be a defensive driver.

Also be aware of blind spots of HGVs and vans . Holding in the overtaking position allows the HGV driver to see you are there and looking to overtake.

If overtaking cyclists allow as much room as if you were overtaking a car when possible . If you are not able to give sufficient room then consider holding back and wait for the situation to change ( road widens, no parked vehicles). Remember if there is no footpath pedestrians could be in the road ahead on your side as they should be facing oncoming traffic especially on rural roads . On approaching pedestrians you will either be able to pass safely or not . If it is safe move out early and signal as the pedestrian(s) will then know you have seen them . Special advice applies to passing horses (I will cover in my next blog ) but suffice to say pass wide and slow ( 15mph or less), and stop if required to or the rider requests this please . All of these examples are vulnerable road users and as a driver it is your responsibility to deal with passing them correctly and safely. There are many deaths of vulnerable road users every year due to thoughtless and dangerous drivers. The roads are for sharing .

On multi lane roads such as motorways and dual carriageways other hazards can occur . If overtaking a line of vehicles especially HGVs avoid being next to one and having to stay there. You may well be in their blind spot. So hold back until you can completely overtake .The illustrations demonstrate some scenarios to be aware of. Some roads have a centre overtaking lane. These roads are now rare but overtaking on them needs careful consideration.

Before moving out to overtake do a sideways glance to your right .
In windy conditions consider using lane 3 if traffic conditions allow to avoid the above

To reiterate overtaking should only be carried out when necessary. It should not be your intention to carry out as many as you can or try your luck or overtaking to be used as revenge on another driver. That attitude will end in disaster in due course. Every gamblers luck runs out. Observation , planning and good decision making , positioning and safety are key . Stay safe .

*Rule 129 Highway Code ‘you may cross the solid white line if necessary ,provided the road is clear , to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle , horse or maintenance vehicle if they are travelling at 10mph or less”.

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