Of all the manoeuvres everyday driving necessitates, overtaking is potentially the most hazardous. Since it’s quite a broad subject too, in this latest Blog article I’ll focus on aspects of the most challenging of overtakes – those taken on two-way single-carriageway roads.
Whilst overtaking on two-way roads inevitably you’ll be positioning your car onto the ‘wrong’ side of the road. With the potential for encountering oncoming traffic it’s vital to ensure you can complete the manoeuvre safely. To assist with the planning involved I teach a three-stage approach to overtaking expressed concisely as catch-match-despatch. The first stage involves catching the ‘target’ vehicle(s) and moving into an overtaking position. Closer than our usual discreet following position of at least two seconds, I encourage a ‘contact’ position which helps to communicate our intention to the driver ahead. Typically positioned towards the crown of the road and offset to the vehicle ahead, you’ll be afforded a clearer view of the distant road-scene to assist with your decision-making. Whilst in contact we shouldn’t be so close that we are of concern to the target vehicle’s driver, but sufficiently close so that during any subsequent overtake we can carry out the manoeuvre expeditiously, returning to our own side of the road in good time and without cutting in.
As we continue to assess the situation ahead we’ll be matching the target vehicle’s speed. Early on I suggest you consider the power and performance of your own car relative to that of the target vehicle. Also, pay due regard to the way in which the target vehicle is being driven. Continuing to check your mirrors regularly you’ll be looking out for any drivers who might be preparing to overtake you. Observing the road well ahead you should be looking to confirm that you’ll have enough time and space in which to overtake and return to your own side of the road before encountering oncoming traffic, junctions left or right, or other similar hazards. Selecting a flexible gear, encourage your car’s engine to sing so that it will be ‘on-cam’ with any turbo ‘on-boost’ and with plenty of poke available to your right foot when you need it. Paying attention as always to the road surface decide upon how much grip will be available and thus how much of your car’s performance you’ll be able to transmit to the road safely.
When you’re fairly sure that you can carry out the overtake safely I’d encourage you to move smoothly out onto the other side of the road without accelerating. Your aim here is to ensure that your judgement was sound and that the overtake is on without the obstruction to your view ahead which was the target vehicle. If at this final decision point you don’t like what you see it’s easy to slot back into position on the near-side, having not yet begun accelerating. Assuming the overtake is on and having previously selected a flexible gear you’ll have both hands on the steering wheel maximising control as you use the car’s performance to despatch the target vehicle briskly. If you’re despatching a line of vehicles travelling in a queue avoid changing-up during the manoeuvre to retain the ability to lift off the gas and thus smoothly slot back into the queue under the helpful influence of engine braking. A less courteous and more prevalent approach amongst many drivers is to change up during the overtake and, as a consequence, have to show their brake lights to the vehicle they’ve overtaken when slotting back in.
Whilst there are many more points for you to consider prior to overtaking, by applying the aforementioned three-stage plan your safety margins can improve. To learn more, consider a bespoke 1-to-1 advanced driving course tailored to your individual advanced driving ambitions. Alternatively, watch our Advanced RoadCraft and High Performance RoadCraft DVDs, both of which demonstrate the aforementioned principles in practise. For more information call Bespoke Driver Training today on 01905 673347.