Overtaking is a skill that is rarely taught as learners progress through their driving lessons. Most novices never reach speeds or drive on the type of roads where overtaking would be necessary; and as overtaking is unlikely to happen during a driving test, then why would an instructor bother to teach it?
No surprise then that many people lack the skill and confidence to carry it out safely.
The first thing to consider is to ask yourself the question ‘is it really necessary?’ Will you be turning off this road shortly? Is the layout going to change, perhaps widening into a dual-carriageway? Is there a queue of vehicles ahead meaning that you will still be sat in convoy anyway? You should only overtake when there really is an advantage in doing so.
How Far Ahead Can You See?
Your next consideration is the view ahead, can you see far enough to ensure that you are able to return to the left safely without cutting in?
Too many people when following another vehicle drive too close to its rear. The closer you are the less you can actually see past it, particularly when it is a larger vehicle. You should keep a safe distance behind while planning to overtake. This not only opens up the view of the road ahead; it also gives space in which to build up speed before pulling out.
You can also take advantage of the road width to increase your view. For example, on a left-hand bend, moving well to the left will enable you to see more down the nearside of the vehicle; this may open up the view across the corner. Be careful not do this though where the edge of the road is damaged or full of debris. On a right-hand bend, moving more to the right will open up the view more on the offside. Before doing so however, make sure that you are not going to cause concern to oncoming traffic.
You also need to consider hidden dangers; a dip in the road which could hide an oncoming driver, or junctions from which vehicles could emerge. If you can clearly see the approach to a junction and you are 100% confident that nothing could emerge into your path, then you may go ahead. But on no account should you overtake on the approach to a junction where there is any doubt or a lack of vision.
Often, the best place to pass is just after a bend. If you position correctly on approach and get a good view beyond the driver ahead, then you can be ready to pass as soon as you exit the corner.
Drop a gear, or maybe two; you need extra power to overtake. When you can see an opportunity to overtake do this before the time comes to get the ‘revs’ up in preparation so that no time is lost.
Mirrors! Again, well before you make a move ensure that you know what the driver behind is doing. If you hesitate and miss safe opportunities, they may decide to try and beat you to it. Ensure your signal and intentions are clear by being in the correct position.
Once committed, the manoeuvre should be carried out quickly and decisively. Stay in that lower gear until you are safely past and don’t pull back in too soon. Some people signal left after passing, which is pointless; the fact that you will to return to the left is the most obvious move you will probably ever make!
Preparing to Pass
In the image on the right, the double white centre lines forbid overtaking; but as the road straightens after the bend the line nearest you may be broken. This could be an opportunity to pass if you have planned your approach correctly. The car driver has an excellent view of the road well ahead across the left-hand bend down the inside of the truck. Here they should be dropping into a lower gear and preparing for a potential overtaking opportunity as they come out of the bend.
In any situation when you don’t feel that you can overtake, or you just don’t want to then drop well back from the vehicle you are following; that way, someone else will be able to pull into that space should they want to overtake you before passing the lead vehicle. Drivers who fail to provide this space for others when they won’t overtake themselves, are the ones responsible for creating long convoys!