overtaking road signs

How to overtake safely while driving

Cars, Cyclists & Horses!

The UK roads are getting busier and busier with a variety of different road users such as cyclists and horseriders, and it’s important to understand how to overtake safely, for both you, your passengers and all other road users. In Surrey the rise in popularity of the RideLondon-Surrey 100 cycle race each year means that roads all around the country have become abundant with amateur cyclists in the Summer months and as you twist and turn down Kent’s country roads, you often find yourself suddenly staring at the derriere of a large equine!

thelwell on the road. Overtake safely. T W White & Sons

So while it might be fun to open up the throttle as you twist and turn around the country lanes, remember we share the road, and may often encounter slower road users, who we need to overtake safely, slowly and with caution.

The Highway Code

There are several rules in the Highway Code relating to overtaking, some being law, others being advisory points to make the maneuver safer for all parties. Importantly, the Highway Code doesn’t give different advisories for overtaking horse riders and cyclists – Rule 163 states that you should give as much space to both of these road users as you do when overtaking other cars. That means fully pulling out to the other side of the road – not squeezing past giving only a few inches to spare.

overtaking cyclists

Mirror. Signal. Manoeuvre

Remember your driving lessons? Mirror. Signal. Manoeuvre.? Those same 3 words are paramount when overtaking other road users. Here are a few points to remember when you do go to overtake:

  • Do not get too close to the vehicle/cyclist/obstacle you intend to overtake. Hanging back a bit will give you extra visibility on the road ahead.
  • Use your rear and door mirrors,  take a quick sideways glance if necessary into the blind spot area, signal and then start to move out.
  • Do not assume that you can simply follow a vehicle in front after they overtaking; there may only be enough room for one vehicle – so make sure you make the judgement to overtake after they finish their manoeuvre.
  • Move quickly past if it is a vehicle you are overtaking. If you are overtaking a horse rider, overtake slowly so that you don’t startle the horse, which can be dangerous for everyone.
  • Move back to the left as soon as you can but do not cut in.
  • Take extra care at night and in poor visibility when it is harder to judge speed and distance.
  • Give way to oncoming vehicles before passing parked vehicles or other obstructions on your side of the road.

Overtaking larger vehicles is more tricky, as visibility can be compromised. Drop further back to help give you a clearer view of the road ahead. This also enables the driver to see you in their mirror and know you are likely to overtake. Make sure that you have extra room to complete your overtaking manoeuvre before committing yourself. It takes much longer to pass a large vehicle than a car or cyclist – so if in doubt do not overtake until you reach a place where you feel safer.

Overtaking safely a large vehicle. T W White & Sons

You MUST NOT overtake..

Remind yourself of the laws surrounding overtaking. Rule 165 of the Highway Code states you MUST NOT overtake:

  • If you would have to cross or straddle double white lines with a solid line nearest to you
  • If you would have to enter an area designed to divide traffic, if it is surrounded by a solid white line
  • The nearest vehicle to a pedestrian crossing, especially when it has stopped to let pedestrians cross
  • If you would have to enter a lane reserved for buses, trams or cycles during its hours of operation
  • After a ‘No Overtaking’ sign and until you pass a sign cancelling the restriction.

Taking extra care when overtaking makes for a safer, more enjoyable experience for all road users. Here is a short film called SPACE from Chris Boardman and master driving instructor Blaine Walsh who show how to overtake safely when passing cyclists. Remember the rules apply to all other road users too!