Overtaking Correctly

DTC UK Overtaking Correctly

How to Overtake

Whilst spending time on the UK’s single lane road, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll come across a vehicle moving far slower than you. Whether it’s large goods vehicle, or a learner driver, overtaking safely is an important skill as if done incorrectly, can result in collisions.

Do you really need to overtake?

If you’re planning on leaving the road soon, you need to stop due to junction or traffic lights, overtaking the vehicle in front of you seems like a pointless endeavour. As you’ll soon have to slam on the brakes, saving only a few seconds of travel time. Furthermore, the overtaking would have wasted fuel and made the road far more dangerous, when it was not necessary.

Plan to overtake

A safe overtaking manoeuvre requires a large amount of space for you to be able to speed up, cross lanes, and successfully pass the vehicle in front. Therefore a relatively large stretch of road is required, which should be entirely empty. Attempting to pass a vehicle without enough space or visibility is a recipe for disaster.

You should also factor in your own cars performance, and whether it has the capacity to accelerate rapidly. Extra passengers or a car loaded with luggage will perform differently and will have a lower rate of acceleration. Therefore, more space will be required.

Look at the car you’re intending to overtake. If there’s another car in front of it, check if there’s enough space for you to be able to pull in between them. Never attempt to overtake two vehicles at once, it’s simply not feasible and is incredibly dangerous. Also, check the road markings that are visible, a solid white line on your side of the road indicates that it’s illegal to overtake.

Overtaking Procedure


  • Check your interior mirror followed by your right mirror to assess any traffic approaching to ensure no other vehicles are attempting to overtake.
  • A quick look over your right shoulder may also be beneficial in order to ensure your blind spot is clear 


  • Move your car just over the centre line but never too close to the vehicle you want to overtake, just in case they suddenly stop
  • This will allow you to have the best possible view of the road ahead


  • Match your speed to that of the vehicle you’re trying to overtake
  • It may help to drop down a gear, giving you a faster rate of acceleration for the overtaking


  • You must also signal to the right when overtaking to allow other road users to know your intentions


  • Pull out to the opposite side of the road carefully, accelerate as quickly as you can pass the vehicle, remembering to keep a good distance away from their side.
  • Ensure that you do not exceed the speed limit during this manoeuvre.


  • Checking your interior mirror and left wing mirror is vital when moving back into the lane.
  • You should only move back in once the vehicle you overtook is fully in the interior mirror.

Illegal Overtaking

Crossing a Solid Line

Overtaking where the road markings indicate a solid white line is strictly forbidden. This could be due to hidden dangers in the road which make it unsafe to move across to the other side of the road. There are, however, exceptions where you can cross a solid white line. For example, when turning in and out of side road, avoiding a stationary vehicle that is blocking your lane, or to overtake a cyclist, horse, or roadworks vehicle only if they’re travelling at less than 10mph.

Overtaking at Zig Zags

Overtaking on zig-zag road markings is also against the law. They’re often placed on both sides of pedestrian crossings and inform drivers that it’s illegal to park, wait or overtake another vehicle. At busy crossings, cameras are often placed to record the details of motorists who break this law and results in a fixed penalty. It is, however, legal to overtake cyclists at these crossings.

Using Cycle and Bus Lanes

Finally, overtaking using cycle lanes or bus lanes is also forbidden, if the cycle or bus lane is lined with a solid white line. Similar to above, this makes it illegal to cross into. Therefore, you should never use a bus lane during its hours of operation to overtake, nor should you use a cycle lane which has solid markings. Again, enforcement cameras are often in place to deter this behaviour and issue penalties to those who do.

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