If you drive regularly on single-lane roads, you’ll eventually need to overtake a slower vehicle. This could be a tractor, lorry or just a Sunday driver taking their time.
Overtaking on single-lane roads can be daunting for newly qualified drivers –even some established ones – but it’s an important manoeuvre to master safely and confidently.

Vehicle overtaking, also known as ‘passing,’ is changing lanes or driving around another vehicle to move past a slower vehicle. Do not overtake other vehicle unless you are sure that you can do so without placing yourself in a dangerous position.

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When overtaking on a single-lane road it’s important to follow these steps:

Consider if it’s necessary. You may feel frustrated being stuck behind someone driving slowly and holding up your journey, but if you’re getting off that road soon anyway, is it worth the risk? How much time will you really save?

Ask if it’s safe to overtake. Are there ‘no overtaking’ signs in the road? Are there any hazards ahead such as pedestrian crossings or a junction? Are you coming up to a bend or is there a dip in the road obscuring your vision? Never try to overtake unless you have clear visibility of both lanes of the road ahead.

Check both lanes. Do you have a clear line of vision? Will there be enough space (around 100 metres) ahead after overtaking? Remember, you’ll not only need enough space to speed up to overtake, but also space to pass the car in front and cross back over in front without causing them to slow down.

Keep in mind your car’s performance. Are you used to normally driving by yourself, but today you have passengers and luggage in the boot? Or is the road uphill?

Do not assume you can follow another car that’s overtaking ahead of you. They may have judged that there’s enough room for them to overtake, but there may not be for you too. Plus, you won’t necessarily have clear visibility of the road when following another car.

Check your mirrors. Make sure the road is clear – not just ahead of you in the oncoming lane, but also behind you and in your blind spot – there may be a car or motorcycle about to overtake you that you don’t initially see.

Drop back slightly and signal. This will give you acceleration space while indicating to the car in front of you (or any behind you) that you’re about to overtake.

Keep checking the road and your mirrors. If there’s an unexpected hazard, you’ll need to drop back quickly and safely.

Accelerate assertively. Make sure to overtake quickly and in a controlled, confident way.

Don’t cut up the driver you’ve overtaken. As a rule of thumb, don’t start to pull back across into your lane until you can see the entire overtaken car in your central rear-view mirror. Then smoothly pull back in and don’t stop accelerating until it’s safe to ease into your normal speed.