Overtaking: What are the rules?

Lauren A

Overtaking is responsible for a large number of road accidents, involving motorcycles and other vehicles, every year. Motorcyclists are unjustly hounded because of their overtaking habits, especially when it comes to overtaking stationery or queuing traffic, because people are unaware of many general road rules.

Something that will perhaps surprise many road users is the fact that the rules of overtaking don’t change. It doesn’t matter if you’re a car driver, lorry driver, tractor driver, cyclist or motorcyclist, the same rules apply to all.

According to the government website, here are the basic rules you should stick to when overtaking a vehicle:

Overtaking what are the rules

Before overtaking

Before overtaking any vehicle there are a few things you should check –

  • No one is beginning to overtake you
  • The road ahead is clear
  • That there is a gap in front of the vehicle that you plan on overtaking

Overtaking

It’s important to remember that it’s not always appropriate or legal to overtake and you should only ever overtake when it is safe and legal to do so.

  • Avoid getting too close to the vehicle that you’re planning on overtaking
  • Always use your mirrors, check your blind-spot and signal before moving out to overtake
  • If someone in front of you moves out to overtake, do not assume that you can follow them because there may only be room for one vehicle
  • At night it’s much harder to judge the speed and distance of other vehicles and visibility can be poor, so it’s important to take extra care
  • Once you’ve started to overtake it’s important to move past the other vehicle as quickly as possible, while also remembering to leave plenty of room
  • If you need to pass parked vehicles or obstructions then it’s essential to give way to oncoming vehicles first
  • Only ever pass a vehicle on the left if they are signalling and waiting to turn right

Overtaking large vehicles

Overtaking larger vehicles is a little more difficult and you should:

  • Drop back from the vehicle in front of you, this will enable to driver of the larger vehicle to see you in their mirrors before you overtake
  • Remember that it takes much longer to pass a large vehicle so you should make sure you’ve got enough room to pass before you commit yourself
  • Avoid following another vehicle around a long vehicle because if a problem arises and they need to abort their manoeuvre they need to be able to pull back in

Overtaking queuing traffic

This is one of the biggest problems that other motorists have with motorcyclists. One of the best things about being a motorcyclist is that you can avoid the traffic jams by filtering through the traffic. A lot of other motorists don’t think that this should be allowed but you’re more than entitled to do it, as long as there’s enough room.

Although it’s allowed, you should be more careful when travelling through the lines of traffic, especially near junctions and crossings. When traffic is slow moving or stationary, pedestrians are likely to cross between cars and there could be other vehicles pulling out of junctions. It’s important to look out for these obstructions and adjust your speed according to the situation, it’s not appropriate to travel down the side of a line of traffic at 20mph; other road users need to have time to see you and to adjust their positioning in order to let you through. Remember, a motorcycle doesn’t offer much protection and if another motorist switches lanes or pulls into your path, the injuries that you could sustain – despite them only travelling slowly – could be pretty serious.

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