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Overtaking Safely

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 6 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Overtaking Safely

Overtaking other vehicles safely is another important element of being a safe driver. It is important to give other vehicles plenty of space when overtaking them in case they are forced to make any sudden movements that could otherwise pose a danger to you. This applies to overtaking on any road on which overtaking is a safe possibility. In all cases though, it is your responsibility to exercise common sense judgements when deciding whether it is safe to overtake in a given situation.

Know your Lanes

Driving etiquette advises that all road users stick to the left-hand lane unless road markings tell you otherwise, and to use the other lane(s) purely for overtaking purposes. Once you have overtaken, you should return to the left-hand lane. In the majority of cases, when a vehicle moves into a lane next to you, you can expect them to overtake you shortly. You should therefore be prepared for them moving into your lane ahead of you after completing the overtaking manoeuvre.

Before Overtaking

Before you attempt to overtake, there are several considerations that you need to be aware of:
  • Make sure that the road ahead of you is clear
  • Make sure that there are no vehicles trying to overtake you
  • Make sure that there is a big enough gap in the traffic for you to slot in ahead of the vehicle that you want to overtake
  • Make sure that you are not too close to the vehicle that you want to overtake, as this may block your view of the road ahead


When you have checked that it is safe to overtake, there are other considerations:
  • Once you have checked your mirrors, use your indicator to signal that you want to move out into the next lane, quickly check your blind spot and move out cautiously
  • If a vehicle ahead of you is overtaking another vehicle, you should not automatically assume that there will be enough room for you to do so too without checking beforehand
  • Once you have started to overtake, do so as quickly as possible and move back to the left as soon as it is safe to do so
  • When overtaking at night or when visibility is poor, you should take extra care, as it is usually more difficult to effectively judge speed and distance
  • If a vehicle ahead of you is indicating to turn right, you can overtake on the left, but you should otherwise overtake on the right. Another time at which it is acceptable to pass on the left is in queuing traffic, when the right-hand lane of traffic is moving more slowly than the left-hand lane
  • When overtaking cyclists, motorcyclists or horse riders, you should give them the same amount of room that you would give to vehicles

When Not to Overtake

There are certain situations in which it is not safe to overtake:
  • When overtaking would involve straddling two lanes or entering an area that is supposed to be dividing traffic
  • When a vehicle has stopped at a pedestrian crossing
  • When overtaking would involve moving into a bus or cycle lane
  • After a ‘No Overtaking’ sign (unless another sign has given the all clear to overtake)

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