“I saw a driver overtake another car by going over a solid white line while they both were going uphill. No wonder we hear of fatal head-on collisions. The solid white lines are not placed on the road because the traffic authorities got bored with broken white lines. The solid white line is there to prohibit drivers from overtaking on that stretch of road, as the risk of a head-on collision is so huge!”
We, as motorists, experience the above, only too often. And of course, the high fatality rate on the roads in South Africa bears witness to this type of recklessness. Let’s find out more about overtaking – something drivers do almost every day.
NO ONE SAID OVERTAKING IS EASY
To pass a stationary car is straightforward, but when it comes to a moving car, it will take considerable experience and skills to overtake it.1 The issue is that the car is a moving hazard while the road situation is also constantly changing. Why is overtaking not so easy? The driver needs to have a clear view of the road ahead and know how to handle cars coming up from the front, from the back and on the side. The driver needs to judge the speed at which his/her car is going before overtaking, what speed is required to overtake the car as soon as possible and depending on the car’s acceleration power, how quickly the driver can get to a satisfactory speed for overtaking. Threats to overtaking safely are: any unfamiliar terrain and any lack of knowledge drivers may have about their car’s abilities. For instance, a heavily loaded car will accelerate slower compared to when it’s empty. A driver of a heavily loaded car that wants to overtake, will have to judge whether or not he can afford to add a few more extra seconds in the oncoming traffic lane because his car is slower than normal when it is empty.
AT WHAT POINT SHOULD WE OVERTAKE?
It all depends where you are. If you are in a single lane road, then overtaking is quite different and more teacherous2 when compared to a dual or double lane freeway. The risk of overtaking in a single lane road is far greater compared to overtaking in a dual lane because overtaking a car in a single lane means that you will have to go into the lane with oncoming traffic, which is not the case on a dual lane freeway. In addition, single lane roads may also be more twisting which makes overtaking a challenge.3 The speed limit on single lane roads is invariably less than the speed limit applied to dual lane freeways. Overtaking at higher speeds is less risky than overtaking at slower speeds.
LOOK OUT FOR ROAD JUNCTIONS
Before you decide to overtake, make absolutely sure by looking at any road markings or signs that there are no junctions or cross-roads lying ahead. You don’t want to be overtaking a car, only to find that suddenly in front of you is a car that has turned towards you in the same lane in which you are overtaking!
THE OVERTAKING LANE
It goes without saying that the whole idea of overtaking in a single lane road is that you stay in the “overtaking” lane for as short a time as possible. So what does this mean?
- A long, straight stretch of road is required where you can clearly see any cars coming your way and where you have enough distance to move out, overtake and move back into your lane.3
- Overtaking along a long, straight stretch of road means you can see further and move faster which means you spend less time in the oncoming traffic.
WHEN SHOULD WE NOT OVERTAKE?
- Frequently we see cars overtaking on the left of cars and in the emergency lane.1,2 Not only is this practice illegal, it is extremely dangerous because you may just get over the rise of a hill only to see a stationary car and you may have too little time and distance to be able to stop.
- In addition, by overtaking on the left, the car you are overtaking may be totally oblivious of you doing so. What if that car suddenly wants to veer off into the emergency lane for whatever reason?
- When the car in front of you is approaching a yield sign.
- When the car in front of you has stopped and passengers are disembarking.
- Never overtake on blind corners, or where roads cross, or at junctions that rapidly approach.
- Gravel roads don’t have any markings to warn you when you can and can’t overtake. In addition, the condition of the road can worsen at any stage and the dust created adds to the overall risk of trying to overtake.
- You must not overtake when you are placing yourself and the car you are overtaking in danger.
- Do not overtake a long queue of cars that are waiting to turn, as this may well trigger road rage.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE ABOUT TO OVERTAKE
- When getting ready to overtake, you must be careful not to get too close to the vehicle as it may suddenly slow down. It is easy to overtake a car when you are going downhill, because not only can you see for a long distance that there are no oncoming cars, but also you are able to increase your speed much easier, provided the other car is also not doing the same. Sometimes, perhaps out of spite, some cars you are overtaking suddenly increase speed as you are overtaking. This is of course illegal and extremely dangerous. If this happens, you need to apply breaks immediately and try and get back behind the car as soon as possible.
- Whenever you have to abort the overtaking position, move back to the “following” distance position, where you are allowing a safe distance between your car and the one in front.
- Being in the “following” distance position before you overtake is a must. This is because it allows you to slowly increase speed while you are still in that lane. When you eventually overtake by going into the oncoming lane, you will already be travelling quite fast, which means you are spending as short a time as possible in that lane.
- In fact, the larger the vehicle or truck that is in front of you, the more distance you must create between yourself and the large vehicle in order for you to see and plan the overtake move.
- In addition, maintaining a long following distance will mean that you can move back easily if for any reason you should suddenly have to abort the overtake move.
- Use the car indicators at all times when needed. This makes your intentions very obvious to all the involved cars. When you are about to overtake, leave the right indicator on for the entire procedure in case the guy behind you decides to overtake you!
- If you decide to overtake 2 cars in a row, make very sure that before you commit to overtaking that you are going fast enough to complete the overtaking and that you will be able to clear both vehicles well in time so that you won’t run out of distance. Don’t count on being able to move back into your lane in the space between the 2 cars if suddenly you see an oncoming car. It is dangerous to do this because one of the 2 cars may have to create space for you to come in and if this is not done quickly enough it could result in dire consequences!
- Once you have overtaken, indicate to go left and allow some space between your car and the overtaken car as you gradually move back into your lane again. If you don’t allow for this space you will end up cutting off the car you have just overtaken. Not only is this dangerous but it also may trigger road rage from the ddriver that you just cut off.
OVERTAKING AT NIGHT
- When you are approaching a car in front of you, switch your headlights to low beam. This is in order to not blind the driver in front of you.
- Indicate to the right before committing to overtake. This is a signal to the driver in front of your intention.
- Once you are overtaking the car, switch the headlights to high beam again so that you can clearly see where you are going.
— Arrive Alive (@_ArriveAlive) September 6, 2017
— Arrive Alive (@_ArriveAlive) September 6, 2017
This article was prepared by Eric Sandmann in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views and opinions of Prime Meridian Direct (Pty) Ltd, FSP41040.The views and opinions in the article should not be attributed to anyone but the author unless expressly stated. Nothing in this article should be relied upon as advice, this publication is presented for informational purposes only. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found in this article, without first obtaining proper financial advice from the appropriate professional. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, or completeness, of any information linked from, referred to, or contained in this article. The author reserves the right, to edit and change the content of this article.