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Safe Overtaking and Road Safety

Overtaking: doing it well and doing it safely

The most pertinent things to have when attempting to overtake another vehicle are a good sense of judgment of speed and distance and an excellent understanding of the power and speed of your car.

However, it is also a good idea to take note of places that are easier to overtake and which roads not to do it on. Single lane roads are perhaps the most treacherous. Often single lanes are not straight and contain a lot of bends. It is generally always safer to overtake on a dual carriageway, they are generally straighter for longer, have a higher speed limit and no oncoming traffic.

Considering or taking note of signs indicating junctions or bends ahead will also help you decide when is best to overtake. The last thing you need is to be surprised by a car pulling out from a stop because you missed the junction sign.

The best time to overtake is on a straight stretch of road where you can see far in front of you and with the possibility of speeding up. However, it is important to remember that oncoming cars on a straight section of road might also be speeding up, you will certainly need to factor this in.

Now that you know where is best to overtake, here is a list of places you should not try to overtake from:

  • In the emergency lane on the left side of the road. This is not only disrespectful and dangerous to fellow motorists, but also dangerous to your own safety. You will never know when a vehicle has stopped in the emergency lane, so unless you need to pull over for some reason, you should steer well clear of this lane.
  • A spot where another vehicle has stopped or slowed at a pedestrian crossing or children crossing, a yield or a stop.
  • Around public buildings and parking lots, where there is a high volume of foot traffic.
  • When a driver in front of you doesn’t have a clear vision of you trying to overtake.
  • In a busy city where there are numerous crowds and turning signals.
  • On any kind of bend or turn of any sorts or on a hill when there is a blind rise.
  • Not near any offramp or exit that you are planning on taking.
  • On dirt or gravel roads, these are often not great roads to drive and often have no signs indicating dangerous bends or speed signs. The dust can also limit visibility.
  • In any kind of stop and go or construction works. Pushing in is considered rude as well as the fact that you may not know what lies ahead with any construction.

There are 4 stages of overtaking and with each stage certain aspects need to be considered and certain questions need to be asked.

Firstly, ask yourself the question, “should I overtake?”. Consider whether you can see far enough in front of you, whether it is legal, if you won’t affect any vehicles around you and if you can pull back or safely forward in more than enough time.

Positioning your car to safely follow the person you wish to overtake is the second step, start edging closer to the vehicle and consider if the road is ideal for overtaking. The third position, the “overtaking position” is when you get as close to the vehicle in front of you as safely possible. You should not stay in this position for very long. The aim of this is just to shorten the distance you need to travel to overtake. Remember to adequately use your indicators when executing this manoeuvre. Lastly, check all your mirrors and blindspots once again and when it’s deemed safe overtake as quickly as safely possible. You should overtake already being in a lower gear, so that you have power on demand. Once you have enough space between you and the car you have overtaken, indicate left and drift back into the lane.

If you are smart and considerate about overtaking then you can do so in reasonable safety. Always be considerate of other drivers and when in doubt about overtaking – don’t!