Overtaking is one of the highest risk manoeuvres for road users. It can put your vehicle into the path of oncoming traffic, often at high speeds. The speed of both vehicles combined creates a much more serious impact in the event of a head-on collision.

Overtaking is split into three types:

  • Overtaking a moving vehicle on the offside
  • Overtaking a stationary or parked vehicle, a rider or an object on the offside
  • Undertaking on the nearside

In the last 5 years, over 40% of deaths on single carriageway sections of the A9 involve overtaking.

The most risky of these is overtaking a moving vehicle in the offside. Almost all of the car occupants (90%), and motorcyclists (86%) who died overtaking were killed attempting this manoeuvre.

The first question to ask yourself before overtaking is: do you need to?

  • You should never overtake unless you are certain you can complete the manoeuvre safely, without causing risk or inconvenience to another road user. Do not overtake if you are in any doubt about the situation.
  • Allow plenty of time for your journey, to avoid feeling pressured to make risky overtaking decisions. This is especially true when planning a route that includes single carriageway roads.
  • Rule 165 of the Highway code clearly states the situations when you must not overtake.
  • Rule 167 advises drivers and riders not to overtake when it might cause conflict with other road users.
  • If you do decide to overtake, there are a number of things to consider. Be aware of junctions from which another vehicle might emerge while you are overtaking.
  • Special care must be taken when overtaking large vehicles, as they can obscure the view to the front of your vehicle – making the manoeuvre more difficult.
  • When overtaking pedal cyclists and motorcyclists, ensure you give them the same room as you would a car.  Be aware they may suddenly wobble or swerve to avoid a hazard in the road.
  • Even greater care is required when overtaking at night, with visibility reduced and speed and distance becoming harder to judge.
  • If you are overtaken, avoid speeding up or moving out in any way that will make it more difficult for the road user to complete their manoeuvre.
  • If required, slow down to allow them to pass and pull back in safely. Ensure there is a safe gap between you and the vehicle in front once overtaken.

Data used has been supplied by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.