Quick guide: 10 Things to keep in mind before overtaking the car ahead of you

Being careless can mean disaster
by Drei Laurel | Mar 31, 2022
PHOTO: Shutterstock

An overtake is one of the most basic maneuvers every motorist should have in his or her arsenal. That said, messing it up can literally mean the difference between safely passing the slow car ahead or ending up in a wreck, so it’s important to know what you’re doing.

While we’re certain most of you guys are familiar with the dos and don’ts of getting ahead, we’ve seen far too many unsafe overtakes out in the wild to say a refresher isn’t in order. Below are a few things you should always keep in mind before and during overtakes:

1) Be mindful of road markings and signs.

Let’s keep this short: Double solid lines, double solid yellow lines, and solid yellow lines mean overtaking the car ahead is out of the question. Solid white lines discourage you from overtaking unless it’s absolutely clear, while broken white lines mean it’s safe. Oh, and a sign featuring two cars side-by-side with a giant red cross over it means overtaking is a no-go, too.

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2) Ensure there’s enough distance and space.

This can be tricky for beginner drivers. Ensure that there’s enough distance between you and the next oncoming vehicle before attempting an overtake. Also, be sure that there’s enough space to safely merge back into your lane once you get ahead.

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3) Check your rear before overtaking.

You don’t want to crash into the side of a car attempting an overtake, do you? Then check your rearview and sideview mirrors. Also, it’s common practice to check over one’s shoulder before attempting to get ahead as well.

4) Make sure you can see the road ahead.

The golden rule of overtaking: Do not attempt to do so if you can’t see ahead. This means you shouldn’t be heading towards curves, corners, or sudden changes of elevation. Signs or road marking will usually be present indicating you’re in an unsafe location to attempt an overtaking maneuver.

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5) Be aware of the other vehicle’s blind spots.

Be careful around larger and taller vehicles such as trucks or oversized pickups. Exercise extra caution when trying to get ahead of them, as their blind spots will be significantly larger than that of an average car.

6) Mind your surroundings.

Do not perform overtakes around construction sites or tight streets with poor roadside visibility. Places like parking garages are an obvious no-no as well. Basically, if you’re driving somewhere where something—be it a pedestrian or fellow motorist—can suddenly pop out from your sides in an attempt to cross, don’t do it.

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7) Never perform one using the right side.

Just don’t. For one thing, this is completely illegal (unless you’re driving in a right-hand-drive country). Your visibility of the road both ahead and behind you is also significantly compromised here.

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8) Ask yourself if it’s really necessary.

Is an overtaking maneuver really in order, or are you just being impatient? Keep local speed limits in mind when you’re considering trying to get ahead or catching up with the car in front of you.

9) Choose the proper gear.

You may want to shift down a gear or two for some extra punch when you try to get ahead. Just hope the car you’re trying to overtake isn’t a dick about it. This brings us to… 

10) Don’t be a dick while being overtaken.

If you see that the car behind you is trying to get ahead, put aside your ego and give him space to merge back into your lane. Trying to get into a pissing contest may end up with one of you (or both) in the hospital.

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