Tag Archives | overtake

Share and share alike

There’s no doubt it can feel frustrating trailing behind a cyclist and forced to slow down as the road is too narrow to overtake or heads uphill. The point to remember here is that no one is king of the road and you have to share the space with a range of vehicles, so accept it gracefully and adjust your driving accordingly. When you do encounter cyclists, observation and quick decision-making are key. Should you try to overtake or keep a safe distance back? The answer is both. To help maintain a steady flow of traffic, you should aim to overtake cyclists as soon as it’s safe to do so. If you’re on a winding country road with blind bends, this safe widow may never appear so remain at least two or three car lengths behind them. However, if you have a clear view of the road ahead, plenty of space and no oncoming traffic, you should be good to overtake. Check your mirrors and blind spots, indicate and carefully drive around them, but don’t speed up to pass only to slow down directly in front of them as they can be travelling at speed, especially downhill. As you overtake, be sure to leave a space of at least a car’s width or a minimum of 1.5 metres at speeds of 20-30mph, and even more space at higher speeds and in poor weather. There are good reasons for this. Imagine what it’s like to stand too close to the platform edge when a fast train passes through a station. That’s how it can feel on a bike when a vehicle overtakes at 60mph without leaving sufficient room. Passing too close reduces the margin for error should the cyclist need to move suddenly to avoid potholes or puddles. It can also make them nervous and more likely to become unbalanced. In fact, cyclists are advised to keep out of the gutter and ride further from the kerb than you might think, which is why on narrow roads they move towards the middle to prevent drivers passing too closely. As the number of bike riders grow, it’s essential you adapt to their needs and respect their safety.

Over the line

Many drivers mistakenly think that it’s legal to break the speed limit to safely overtake another motorist. But this common misconception is against the law and you could face a fine and penalty points. Under Rule 163 of the Highway Code, drivers should only overtake when it’s safe and legal to do so. Although it advises you to move quickly past the vehicle in front when overtaking, the Highway Code also states the speed limit is the ‘absolute maximum and does not mean that it is safe to drive at that speed irrespective of conditions’. In short, the speed limit is the speed limit, full stop. Overtaking is no excuse for speeding, and remember, never overtake if you have to cross double white lines or with a solid line nearest to you,

Too close to overtake

Before you drive off, try holding your hand about two inches in front of your eyes and consider what you can see directly in front of you. Keeping your hand in front and in line with your eyes, gradually move it away and notice how your view of the world in front is changing. If you apply the same principle to large vehicles you will find that by keeping well back you will have a wider field of view ahead. This is one reason why you are advised to leave a ‘two chevron’ gap on specially marked sections of motorways. Quite simply, if you follow a large vehicle too closely you will miss opportunities to overtake because you can’t see far enough ahead. By keeping well back you’ll be in a much safer position to overtake when an opportunity arises.

Making a pass

In normal driving you should only pass other moving vehicles on their right. However, there are four exceptions to this rule:

In all of these situations you must take special care. For example with a vehicle turning right do not rely on a signal alone if you plan to pass on the left – some drivers are lost or change their mind at the last moment. Exercise caution and be ready to change your mind. If you are in any doubt, wait until the situation becomes clear.

Overtaking waiting buses

Getting stuck behind a waiting bus can be tricky. The Highway Code advises you to give priority to buses signalling to pull off from a bus stop. However, if the bus is not signalling right, it could be there for ages and if you don’t overtake, drivers behind you may become frustrated and try to pass you and the bus.
When you are travelling behind a bus and can see a bus stop ahead, try to predict how long the bus will wait there before deciding whether it’s worth overtaking. Is there anyone waiting to get on or is it stopping to let someone off? Who is waiting to get on? Is it a mum with a pushchair? If you do end up waiting behind a bus, make sure you stop far enough back to see past it. Perhaps it hasn’t stopped at a bus stop at all but is waiting at traffic lights or giving way behind a parked car. How embarrassing and dangerous if you tried to overtake then.

Bus drivers are trained to be aware that motorists might try to overtake them unsafely and often leave their right indicators flashing while waiting in queues, to encourage traffic to stay behind – so pay attention to their signals. If you decide to overtake, do so slowly because passengers often get off buses and then cross the road immediately in front of them.

Indicating and overtaking cyclists

Whether to indicate when overtaking a cyclist depends on the situation. If, for example, there’s a cyclist ahead and oncoming traffic, it depends on the width of the road. If it’s wide enough to overtake the cyclist safely, but may result in your car being positioned a little towards the centre of the road, a signal will benefit oncoming traffic as it will show your intention to overtake the cyclist.

During the same situation, if the road isn’t wide enough to pass the cyclist and you need to slow down and wait for oncoming vehicles to pass, a signal may be of benefit to vehicles behind. If you feel a vehicle is driving too close behind you, or may not see the cyclist you intend to slow down for, a signal to the right before slowing down will provide cars behind with an indication of a potential hazard ahead.

However, it’s not necessary to indicate every time you pass a cyclist as other drivers may think you’re making a turn. You must assess each situation and indicate only if you think the benefits of doing so will increase the safety of yourself and others.

Be Sure

The most common cause of a motoring incident isn’t speed; it’s simply a failure of judgement. You think you’ve got room to overtake, you don’t think the car coming towards you is going as fast as it is, you reckon you can both squeeze between that parked car…Train yourself to analyse situations, question your judgement and most important: be sure. Don’t take risks -– if you think you can, but you’re not quite sure, train yourself to wait.