How to overtake safely
Overtaking is one of the most common but also potentially dangerous everyday manoeuvres a driver can perform. Make sure you read this article before you next get behind the wheel as highlights many factors relating to overtaking.
Overtaking on a multi-lane freeway, highway or main road
Overtaking on a road which has multiple lanes going in the same direction is less risky than overtaking while crossing over into an oncoming lane, such as in open highways between outback towns. But it still has many risk factors which need to be highlighted so the risk of being involved in a traffic accident will be greatly reduced.
When overtaking on these types of roads, start by first checking your mirrors and performing a head-check to visually confirm the lane you wish to move into on the right has a large enough space safe for your vehicle to go into. If a vehicle is going faster than you in the lane you wish to change into, allow it to pass before moving into it.
When ready to change lanes, switch on your turn signal for 2 to 3 seconds and visually check again before gently moving over into the lane. These seconds allow you to communicate your intentions to other motorists around you, and doing it gently, rather than moving across quickly, allows for a greater margin for reaction to an error. Remember: the turn signal is to communicate your intention, before your action.
Overtake the slower vehicle(s) but remember that is illegal to exceed the speed limit at any time, even while overtaking. Once your overtaking is completed and you can see the headlights of the other vehicle in your rear view mirror, move back into the original lane. Sometimes you may need to overtake a second or third vehicle before moving back over.
Before overtaking, consider how long it may take to overtake multiple vehicles and how it may affect you if you are close to turning off the road. Spending too much time overtaking may cause you to miss your exit.
Overtaking on the open highway
Changing lanes to overtake another vehicle on the open highway can easily become a risky situation. Before you commit to overtake in these areas, run a quick check through your mind to determine if you really need to perform the manoeuvre:
• Is it worth the risk?
• Is there a dedicated overtaking lane coming up if you wait a short while?
• Are you feeling pressured by time or passengers?
• Do you feel comfortable doing it?
• Can your vehicle do it quickly and safely given its performance and any extra weight it may be carrying?
• Is the weather and view ahead clear enough for overtaking?
• Will you need to illegally exceed the speed limit to safely overtake the other vehicle(s)?
• Are any intersecting main roads ahead where vehicles may be more likely to emerge from on the oncoming side?
• Should you allow any faster vehicles waiting behind you to go first?
• Are you going to be turning off soon?
Also consider how many vehicles you need to overtake. Having to overtake two or more slower-moving vehicles can become a problem as you will spend more time overtaking, since you cannot exceed the speed limit, and may not be able to change back into your original lane if there is a sudden urgent situation.
Consider also if you may miss your exit or turn off while overtaking multiple vehicles, and that the risk of danger will increase while you spend a longer time occupying the oncoming lane.
If any of these points make you doubt if you should do it, then sometimes it may be best to just leave it, drop back and cruise. Better to get there safely and relaxed rather than pressured, stressed and rushed.
But if you are going to overtake, then you need to do it right.
First and foremost, always obey the road law in that a solid white line marking cannot be crossed. A vehicle can only cross a broken white line marking when overtaking.
As you drive along roads with oncoming lanes next to each other, you will see that the solid/broken lines change from each side, permitting each side of the road to be permitted to overtake at different places. This often relates directly to turns or intersections which would make overtaking dangerous for one side of the road.
Sometimes both sides of the road have broken lines, meaning both sides can overtake at any time, as long as it is safe to do so.
Once you reach unbroken lines, check to ensure there are no oncoming vehicles, or those vehicles are sufficiently far away in the distance. Remember that vehicles travelling in the oncoming lane are moving towards your vehicle at a similar speed to your vehicle, making them arrive sooner than the human brain might be conditioned to thinking. So always ensure there is enough space to perform your overtaking manoeuvre safely.
Switch on your turn signal for 2 to 3 seconds and then move out and accelerate to a higher speed within the speed limit and that is safe for the driving conditions (eg. road condition, visibility and weather). Pass the vehicle(s) and when you see their headlights in your rear view mirror, signal to cross back over and change back into the original lane.
Effects of frequent overtaking
Overtaking other vehicles frequently increases the risk of being involved in a traffic accident. Every time you change lanes to perform an overtaking manoeuvre, there is the risk that you could make a mistake and miss something, or someone else could fail to see what you are doing and cause a collision. It is possible that two vehicles can change into the same space at the same time, if both drivers are not careful enough.
Another effect of overtaking is on your fuel consumption and engine wear. By “taking it easier” on the roads, your fuel consumption and engine will be less affected by the demands of accelerating frequently.
If you must overtake, do so for good reason and not due to pressure for time / stress or passengers, and so it safely. Remember to check mirrors and over your shoulder, remember to signal your intentions and overtake safely.