Right Driver

Overtaking rules: when are you allowed to pass another vehicle?

Everyone needs to overtake someone at some point when driving, but picking a safe time and place to overtake is the key to minimising the risk.

Can you see far enough ahead?

These scenarios can restrict your view and you should avoid overtaking:

  • Blind bends (i.e. you can’t see the exit of the bend)
  • Humpback bridge of the brow of a hill where you can’t see beyond the crest
  • Fog
  • Sunstrike
  • It’s a large vehicle and is obscuring your view ahead
  • Spray from other vehicles is obscuring your view
Sunstrike can blind you to the road ahead. Set your seat and visors to maximise the shade for your eyes

You would break the road rules

These scenarios would contravene traffic laws:

  • You have passed a no-overtaking sign
  • You have to use a lane you are not permitted to use (e.g. bus, tram or cycle lane) during its hours of operation
  • You have to cross double white lines with a solid line on your side of the road
  • A vehicle is waiting at a pedestrian crossing
  • A vehicle is driving across a pedestrian crossing
  • You would have to enter an area designed to divide traffic, if it’s surrounded by a solid white line
  • You would have to exceed the speed limit to complete the manoeuvre.

Other road users may be put in danger

Avoid overtaking in these situations:

  • Another vehicle is overtaking you
  • You’re approaching a junction on either side of the road
  • You’re approaching a chicane or narrowing
  • There’s not enough room for both of your vehicles on the road
  • Where you would have to drive on the verge to get past
  • You’re approaching a school crossing patrol
  • Where traffic is queuing at a junction, roadworks or crossing
  • Where other road users may be forced to swerve, brake or stop to avoid you
  • At level crossings
  • When following a cyclist about to enter a roundabout if you are turning left
  • Where there’s no clearly marked lane to pass when a tram is stopped
  • On the left, unless a vehicle is indicating to turn right and is slowing down
  • Where you don’t have enough power to get past the vehicle ahead, or you are likely to be unable to maintain your current speed (e.g. you’re driving a heavily laden lorry and approaching a long steep hill)
  • A large lorry is indicating left (it may need to move to the right to make the turn)
  • Where the vehicle you are overtaking would have to move to the right, for example, to pass stationary vehicles or other road users such as cyclists
  • Where the vehicle is being escorted by police
  • Where two lanes are merging
  • When a lane is closing due to roadworks
  • Where you might endanger an animal (e.g. a horse and rider)
  • You are following another vehicle past a long vehicle (the vehicle ahead may abort the overtaking manoeuvre if a hazard develops ahead).
Give other road users plenty of room when overtaking
If you are travelling slower than other traffic, keep left to make it easier for them to overtake
Be aware of other drivers’ blind spots when you’re overtaking
Winding roads can be difficult to pass on, especially if they are narrow
The sign warning of slow lorries indicates to drivers they should be looking for overtaking opportunities, and that lorries should perhaps not try to overtake other vehicles if they cannot maintain their speed

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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