Safely Overtaking on the Road

1 July 2021

If you frequently drive on one-lane roads, you will eventually need to overtake a slower vehicle. This could be a tractor, a lorry, or just a slow Sunday driver. Overtaking on single-lane roads can be intimidating for newly qualified drivers, as well as some experienced ones, but it is an important manoeuvre to master safely and confidently.

Where is it illegal to overtake?

It is illegal if there are clearly posted signs or road markings prohibiting it, or if it is done in an unsafe, reckless, or uncontrolled manner. Examples include when you don't have clear visibility of the road ahead – perhaps due to bad weather, such as rain or fog – or when you need to exceed the speed limit in order to overtake.

Is it illegal to speed while overtaking?

According to Highway Code Rule 125, the speed limit is the absolute maximum you should drive on any given road. This does not rule out overtaking. Exceeding the speed limit for any reason is dangerous as well as illegal, and you could face penalty points, a hefty fine, or even being barred from driving altogether.

While overtaking is legal, there are strict rules about how and when it is safe to do so – the most basic being that you should only overtake "when it is safe and legal to do so." If you're caught speeding while overtaking, you could face a £2,500 fine and six points on your licence, depending on your speed and the road you're caught on.

10 Handy Tips for Overtaking the Right Way

  1. Consider whether it is necessary. You may be irritated by being stuck behind someone driving slowly and delaying your journey, but if you're going to be off that road soon anyway, is it worth the risk? How much time do you think you'll save?
  2. Inquire whether it is safe to overtake. Is there any 'no overtaking' signage on the road? Is there anything in the way, such as a pedestrian crossing or a junction? Are you approaching a bend, or is a dip in the road obstructing your vision? Never attempt to overtake unless you have a clear view of both lanes of the road ahead.
  3. Examine both lanes. Do you have a distinct field of vision? Will there be enough space ahead (around 100 metres) after overtaking? Keep in mind that you will not only require.
  4. Keep your car's performance in mind. Are you used to driving alone, but you now have people and luggage in the back seat? Is the road downhill or uphill?
  5. Don't think you'll be able to keep up with a car that's overtaking in front of you. They may have determined that there is enough area for them to pass, but there may not be enough room for you as well. Furthermore, when following another vehicle, you may not have great vision of the road.
  6. Look in the mirrors. Make sure the road is open - not just in the oncoming lane, but also behind you and in your blind zone — there may be a car or motorcycle approaching you that you are unaware of.
  7. Slightly step back and indicate. This will offer you more acceleration room while also signalling to the automobile ahead of you (or any behind you) that you are about to overtake.
  8. Continue to keep an eye on the road and your mirrors. If an unanticipated hazard arises, you must retreat immediately and safely.
  9. Assertively accelerate. Make sure you overtake fast, confidently, and in a controlled manner.
  10. Don't cutting up the driver you've passed. As a general guideline, don't start pulling back into your lane until you can see the complete overtaken vehicle in your centre rear-view mirror. Then draw back in smoothly and keep speeding until it's safe to return to your regular pace.

When is it illegal to overtake?

In certain situations, you should not overtake on a single-lane road:

  1. When the weather is bad, such as rain or fog, and you can't see the road ahead of you safely.
  2. When you can't see the road well, such as around a bend, on a hump bridge, or on the crest of a hill.
  3. When the road signs say no: you might think it's safe, but there could be a hidden danger you're not aware of.
  4. Approaching a potential hazard, such as construction, a crossroads, a school crossing, a level crossing, or a road narrowing ahead.
  5. If the vehicle in front of you is signalling right, even if their position on the road suggests they aren't turning, you should proceed.

What are the rules with double white lines

If there are road signs or markings preventing overtaking, it is prohibited. These road markings appear as variants on double white lines, with the closest line broken, the closest line solid, or both lines solid.

Where the nearest line is broken, draw two white lines.
You may cross these lines to overtake if it is safe and you can complete the manoeuvre before reaching a solid white line on your side, according to Rule 128 of the Highway Code.

Where the nearest line is solid, there are two white lines.
You must not cross or straddle these lines unless it is safe and you need to reach nearby property or a side road, according to Highway Code Rule 129.

There is one exception: if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less, you may cross the line to pass a stationary vehicle or overtake a pedal cycle, horse, or road maintenance vehicle.

There are two white lines where the closest line is solid.
According to Highway Code Rule 129, you must not cross or straddle these lines unless it is safe and you need to get to adjoining property or a side road.

You may cross the line to pass a stationary vehicle or overtake a pedal cycle, horse, or road maintenance vehicle if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less.

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