To overtake means to catch up with and pass other vehicles on the road. One of the causes of head-on collisions is improper overtaking. Careless overtaking places one in potential danger because it brings one into the path of other vehicles.
Overtaking is a complex maneuver because you need to consider a number of secondary hazards as well as the primary hazard presented by the vehicle(s) to be overtaken. Do not overtake unless you are sure it is safe for yourself and other road users.
Before Overtaking: Overtaking a moving vehicle is more complicated because the hazards are moving and the situation changes all the time. You need to consider the speed and acceleration capabilities of your own vehicle, and the relative speed of other vehicles. You also need to be able to predict where vehicles and gaps in the traffic will converge. To do this safely requires careful observation and planning, good judgment of speed and distance, and an awareness of many possible secondary hazards. Ensure at all times that the road is sufficiently clear ahead. Before overtaking, you must consider the full range of possible hazards that each situation presents:
- The Vehicle Ahead: Look out for kind of hazard the vehicle ahead presents and ask some questions like: Has the driver of the vehicle noticed me? Can I predict from earlier behaviour whether the response of the driver is likely to be aggressive? Does the size or the load of the vehicle prevent me from seeing the road ahead clearly? Before setting out, communicate your intention firmly but politely to the driver in front using the horn or flashing headlight but take care not to appear too intimidating. This can be counter productive, and provoke an aggressive response in the other driver who might speed up as you try to overtake. If the driver ahead appears to be obstructive, consider the implications. Firstly, is it worthwhile at all and secondly, how much extra speed and space do you need to allow this? If the driver ahead has not noticed you or has loads which obscure the rear-view mirrors, take this into account. This will enable you to notify the driver who may have not noticed you. This is often appropriate when passing large vehicles.
- The Vehicle Behind: Check whether the vehicles behind pose a risk. Note their speed, position and progress, and judge whether they may attempt at overtaking you. Be aware that other vehicles may come forward from behind the vehicle immediately behind you. Consider the need to signal your intentions. Use your mirrors to check the position/situation of the traffic behind you; especially before changing speed or position, signal your intention, and then start to move out.
- The Road Layout and Conditions: Always put very carefully into consideration the road layout ahead in your overtaking plans. Look for obstructions or junctions (including pathways, tracks, entrances, junctions, lay-byes, hill crest and bends) out of which vehicles or other hazards could emerge: for these might be obstacles in your overtaking plan. On the offside, look carefully for junctions, especially where they could conceal emerging vehicles or other hazards. Always scan for and be attentive to lay-byes on both sides of the road and be alert to the possibility that a vehicle might pull out of them. Drivers leaving lay-byes on the offside may not see you because they are concentrating on what is happening behind rather than in front of them. Always allow for the possibility that there are fast approaching vehicles on the sections of the road you cannot see. Look especially for hazards which might cause the vehicles you are overtaking to alter their position. Make full use of the road signs, road markings especially those giving instructions or warning you of hazards ahead.