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How to Overtake

September 22nd, 2007. Posted in Motoring & Driving Tips

Advanced driving is about planning, and never more so when we’re talking about ‘OVERTAKING’. If an overtake is safe and you’ve catered for as many ‘what if’s’ as possible….then proceed with caution. If there is an element of doubt…then don’t proceed.

Overtaking multiple vehicles
Over taking multiple vehicles is always with extreme caution as there are very few roads where it’s possible with the amount of traffic flow (in the other direction)..also many vehicles are capable of double the national speed limit so there are few occasions nowadays where a law abiding driver has the chance to safely overtake.

However, there are times when on a clear and open NSL (national speed limit) road, there will be several vehicles well under the speed limit in front. Perhaps wanting to pass a tractor or car towing a caravan and they all don’t feel they can achieve it safely (for whatever reason). Sometimes because drivers don’t look far enough in the distance to ‘use observation effectively and plan’ the overtake.

So if you’ve look far enough in the distance and are sure there are no cars oncoming that you are going to conflict with, no hidden dips where oncoming cars might be and no offside lay-bys or junctions on either side….you are confident of the performance of your vehicle….you have been watching the drivers in front and are aware of their vehicles and their potential intentions….and you also have somewhere to go if it starts to look ‘close – exit strategy’….then……….. overtake.

If the cars are spaced out enough for you to overtake one and have enough space (if needed) to move back (without causing the driver you’ve overtaken to brake)..treat each car as an overtake….ie: if there are 7 cars it’s seven overtakes….

You don’t have to keep moving back in, but could do if the need arises.

However, if the cars are bunched up together with no room to get back in….you have to treat the 7 cars as one overtake. Imagine it as a huge long goods vehicle. So if you don’t have enough power in your car and road ahead to pass all of them safely in one go…then don’t do it..

Positioning on the Road during an Overtake
You can do all of the above better by proper positioning.

The overtaking postiion should be entered into…which on a NSL road depends really on the speed of the vehicle in front….however, it’s closer than a normal ‘following position’. Then you need to move over the white lines and (if safe to do so). Sit in the opposite lane looking down the offside of the road and down the line of cars.

Here’s the secret; DON’T ACCELERATE instead keep at the same speed as the car you are following.Then if you see an oncoming vehicle in the distance; you can simply move back across onto your side of the road and your braking distance from the vehicle in front hasn’t changed. When the oncoming car has passed by, repeat the action, back onto the opposite side of the road for another look. Imagine it like water skiing.Where the bloke on the skis never gains or drops back from the boat the length of the road remains the same.

This will allow you a full view of the road ahead, the cars in the line and also for any other dangers; lay-bys, junctions etc and allow you to decide if the overtake is ON or OFF.

The associated problems with this are two fold:

  1. oncoming cars in the distance might assume that you’re overtaking (when you’re not)
  2. the car that you were following might assume the same and slow down.

You have to be mindful of this and adapt accordingly.Overtaking can be one of the most satisfying aspects of advanced driving, but at the same time has the potential to be the most dangerous. It’s all about planning, anticipation and restraint.

The greatest danger with overtakes doesn’t usually come from overtakes where you can see the vehicles towards, but the ones towards a loss of vision where you have yet to see vehicles coming towards you. This is because if you can see the vehicle towards you, you can make an assessment on it’s speed & how far away it is. If you have yet to see it you don’t know how fast it is going & it could be going a great deal faster than the speed limit on that road.

If you are looking at doing an overtake prior to the loss of vision (& you haven’t seen anything towards) a common mistake is to believe that in planning your overtake you have all of the space available upto the loss of vision YOU DON’T.

If there is a vehicle just in that loss of vision, but as yet unseen, even if it is only travelling at the same speed as you, you will now only have half the space between your current position & the loss of vision in order to complete your overtake & regain your nearside position. If the unseen vehicle is travelling faster than you, then you will have even less than that.

Look at the loss of vision you are approaching & make an assessment on what the maximum speed a vehicle coming the other way could be doing. Believe there is a vehicle approaching at that speed & only commit to the overtake if you can definitely get back to the nearside before it could get to you.

If the loss of vision is a really tight left or right hand bend then nothing will be able to be really quick out of it towards you, but if it is an open bend on an A class road, there could be a very powerful vehicle coming at you quickly.

One common question asked, is “how to treat white lines during overtaking”, such as “I MUST NOT cross or straddle a solid white line on my side except in certain circumstances. Amongst these are to … or overtake a pushbike, a horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph or less.”

I see many bikers (OK, I’m amongst them) when faced with a solid stream of traffic queued and all doing less than 10 mph, crossing the solid line and filtering slowly past so long as it’s safe to do so and a gap to get safely into is visible.

Now, strictly speaking, this shouldn’t be done since the vehicles being overtaken don’t fit into the categories above. However, what is the official reaction to this – will it be an automatic ‘get done’, or will it depend on whether the manouvre is considered reckless?

The answer to this is….You are leaving yourself at the mercy of the Police officer.

There is no requirement to show danger, only that you crossed the line other than for the exemptions. The speed at which you do it & how safe it is have no relevance in the letter of the law. It is also an endorseable offence.

It is a common misconception that the solid lines mean no overtaking, they do not. If you can overtake without crossing them then that is no offence. The legislation is specific as to the vehicles you can pass at that speed, it is not just any vehicle.

For reference:

The relevant law is Regulation 26(6) of The Traffic Signs Regulations & General Directions 2002

Road markings shown in diagrams 1013.1, 1013.3 and 1013.4: double white lines

26. – (1) A road marking for conveying the requirements specified in paragraph (2) and the warning specified in paragraph (7) shall be of the size, colour and type shown in diagram 1013.1, 1013.3 or 1013.4.

(2) The requirements conveyed by a road marking mentioned in paragraph (1) shall be that –

(a) subject to paragraphs (3) and (5), no vehicle shall stop on any length of road along which the marking has been placed at any point between the ends of the marking; and

(b) subject to paragraph (6), every vehicle proceeding on any length of road along which the marking has been so placed that, as viewed in the direction of travel of the vehicle, a continuous line is on the left of a broken line or of another continuous line, shall be so driven as to keep the first-mentioned continuous line on the right hand or off side of the vehicle.

(3) Nothing in paragraph (2)(a) shall apply so as to prevent a vehicle stopping on any length of road so long as may be necessary for any of the purposes specified in paragraph (4) if the vehicle cannot be used for such a purpose without stopping on the length of road.

(4) The purposes are –

(a) to enable a person to board or alight from the vehicle,

(b) to enable goods to be loaded on to or to be unloaded from the vehicle,

(c) to enable the vehicle to be used in connection with –

(i) any operation involving building, demolition or excavation;

(ii) the removal of any obstruction to traffic;

(iii) the maintenance, improvement or reconstruction of the length of road; or

(iv) the laying, erection, alteration, repair or cleaning in or near the length of road of any sewer or of any main, pipe or apparatus for the supply of gas, water or electricity, or of any telecommunications apparatus kept installed for the purposes of a telecommunications code system or of any other telecommunications apparatus lawfully kept installed in any position.

(5) Nothing in paragraph (2)(a) shall apply –

(a) so as to prevent a vehicle stopping in a lay-by;

(b) to a vehicle for the time being used for fire brigade, ambulance or police purposes;

(c) to a pedal bicycle not having a sidecar attached thereto, whether additional means of propulsion by mechanical power are attached to the bicycle or not;

(d) to a vehicle stopping in any case where the person in control of the vehicle is required by law to stop, or is obliged to do so in order to avoid an accident, or is prevented from proceeding by circumstances outside his control;

(e) to anything done with the permission or at the direction of a constable in uniform or in accordance with the direction of a traffic warden; or

(f) to a vehicle on a road with more than one traffic lane in each direction.

(6) Nothing in paragraph (2)(b) shall be taken to prohibit a vehicle from being driven across, or so as to straddle, the continuous line referred to in that paragraph, if it is safe to do so and if necessary to do so –

(a) to enable the vehicle to enter, from the side of the road on which it is proceeding, land or premises adjacent to the length of road on which the line is placed, or another road joining that road;

(b) in order to pass a stationary vehicle;

(c) owing to circumstances outside the control of the driver;

(d) in order to avoid an accident;

(e) in order to pass a road maintenance vehicle which is in use, is moving at a speed not exceeding 10 mph, and is displaying to the rear the sign shown in diagram 610 or 7403;

(f) in order to pass a pedal cycle moving at a speed not exceeding 10 mph;

(g) in order to pass a horse that is being ridden or led at a speed not exceeding 10 mph; or

(h) for the purposes of complying with any direction of a constable in uniform or a traffic warden.

(7) The warning conveyed by a road marking mentioned in paragraph (1) shall be that no vehicle while travelling next to a broken line placed on the left of a continuous line, as viewed in the direction of travel of the vehicle, should cross or straddle the first-mentioned line unless it is seen by the driver of the vehicle to be safe to do so.