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Overtaking Safely & Rules

Chapter 35

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It’s dangerous to overtake another vehicle as it’s difficult to judge the space required to complete the manoeuvre safely. Be very careful, and if in doubt, don’t pull out! Both single and multi-lane overtaking can be dangerous.

Do not hold up a long queue of traffic, especially if you are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle. Check your mirrors frequently, and if necessary, pull in where it is safe and let traffic pass.

Overtaking safely

Overtaking is one of the most dangerous manoeuvres you will do on the road. It is therefore vital that you perform an overtake as safely as you can. Always make sure that the road ahead is clear and that you have a large enough gap in oncoming traffic - don’t create a dangerous situation because you are impatient.

Overtaking when there are oncoming vehicles

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Be careful not to underestimate the space and time needed to perform a safe overtake. The space behind you and an oncoming vehicle will be quickly overcome as you are both travelling toward each other at speed. If you are unsure, do not attempt an overtake.

lesson imageBe careful if you're overtaking more than one vehicle at a time as it increases the distance needed to overtake

Before overtaking

Before overtaking you should make sure:

  • the road is sufficiently clear ahead
  • road users are not beginning to overtake you
  • there is a suitable gap in front of the road user you plan to overtake

When you’re being overtaken

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If a driver is trying to overtake you:

  • maintain a steady course and speed, slowing down if necessary to let the vehicle pass. 
  • never obstruct drivers who wish to pass. 
  • do not increase your speed or drive unpredictably while someone is overtaking

Drop back to maintain a two-second gap if someone overtakes and pulls into the gap in front of you.

Overtaking safely

lesson imageDon't not cut in too close

Overtake only when it's safe and legal to do so. You should:

  • not get too close to the vehicle you intend to overtake
  • use your mirrors, signal when it is safe to do so, take a quick sideways glance if necessary into the blind spot area and then start to move out
  • not assume that you can simply follow a vehicle ahead which is overtaking; there may only be enough room for one vehicle
  • move quickly past the vehicle you are overtaking, once you have started to overtake. Allow plenty of room. Move back to the left as soon as you can but do not cut in
  • take extra care at night and in poor visibility when it is harder to judge speed and distance
  • give way to oncoming vehicles before passing parked vehicles or other obstructions on your side of the road
  • only overtake on the left if the vehicle in front is signalling to turn right, and there is room to do so
  • stay in your lane if traffic is moving slowly in queues. If the queue on your right is moving more slowly than you are, you may pass on the left
  • give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car

Rule 163: Give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a carRule 163: Give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a car

Situations when you most not overtake

There are also a number of situations where you must never overtake as it’s illegal or too dangerous: 

  • if you would have to cross or straddle double white lines with a solid line nearest to you
  • if you would have to enter an area designed to divide traffic, if it is surrounded by a solid white line
  • the nearest vehicle to a pedestrian crossing, especially when it has stopped to let pedestrians cross
  • if you would have to enter a lane reserved for buses, trams or cycles during its hours of operation
  • after a ‘No Overtaking’ sign and until you pass a sign cancelling the restriction.
  • if approaching a curve, crest or any other situation with limited vision
  • if the road is narrow and you are not able to stay on the sealed part of the road, unless overtaking in a safe manner at a low speed

lesson imageYou are NOT allowed to overtake in any of these scenarios

Overtaking in a dangerous manner can be fatal. You should consider if an overtake is necessary and make sure that you always perform a safe and legal overtaking manoeuvre.

Situations with limited view

Don’t pull out if your view is blocked or limited. You never know what might be behind the next curve or hill. At many places, dangerous overtaking stretches will be indicated by variations of continuous dividing lines.

lesson imageUnless you're Greg, don't overtake a vehicle acting like this