How to overtake…safely

Overtaking is an inherently risky manoeuver. A lot can go wrong if you don’t do it correctly!

So when overtaking it’s important to follow these steps:

  • Consider if it’s necessary. You may feel frustrated being stuck behind someone driving slowly and holding up your journey, but if you’re getting off that road soon anyway, is it worth the risk? How much time will you really save?
  • Ask if it’s safe to overtake. Are there ‘no overtaking’ signs in the road? Are there any hazards ahead such as pedestrian crossings or a junction? Are you coming up to a bend or is there a dip in the road obscuring your vision? Never try to overtake unless you have clear visibility of both lanes of the road ahead.
  • Check both lanes. Do you have a clear line of vision? Will there be enough space (around 100 metres, the length of a football pitch) ahead after overtaking? Remember, you’ll not only need enough space to speed up to overtake, but also space to pass the car in front and cross back over in front without causing them to slow down.
  • Keep in mind your car’s performance. Are you used to normally driving by yourself, but today you have passengers and luggage in the boot? Or is the road uphill?
  • Do not assume you can follow another car that’s overtaking ahead of you. They may have judged that there’s enough room for them to overtake, but there may not be for you too. Plus, you won’t necessarily have clear visibility of the road when following another car.
  • Don’t get too close to the vehicle you want to overtake. If you change your mind about overtaking you need to be able to stop if the vehicle in front stops! Remember (and follow) the two second rule.
  • Check your mirrors. Make sure the road is clear – not just ahead of you in the oncoming lane, but also behind you and you might need a quick glance into your blind spot, over your right shoulder – there may be a car or motorcycle about to overtake you that you didn’t initially see. Then before you commit to the the overtake – check again!
  • Drop back slightly and signal. This will give you acceleration space while indicating to the car in front of you (or any behind you) that you’re about to overtake.
  • Keep checking the road and your mirrors. If there’s an unexpected hazard, you’ll need to drop back quickly and safely.
  • Accelerate assertively. Make sure to overtake quickly and in a controlled, confident way.
  • Don’t cut up the driver you’ve overtaken. As a rule of thumb, don’t start to pull back across into your lane until you can see the entire overtaken car in your central rear-view mirror. Then smoothly pull back in and don’t stop accelerating until it’s safe to ease into your normal speed.

With thanks to the RAC