Overtaking Wisdom – Or as the Bee Gees put it ‘Staying Alive, Staying Alive…’

Overtaking Wisdom – Or as the Bee Gees put it ‘Staying Alive, Staying Alive…’

Overtaking is potentially the most dangerous bit of being a biker. Misjudge an overtake and you can find yourself entering a bend too fast, badly positioned, on the wrong side of the road. Misread the traffic and in seconds you can be in a head on situation, on the wrong side of the road and accelerating to boot. The Institute of Advanced Motoring (IAM) course and the Police Roadcraft system (well worth reading, buy the book on eBay) both advocate essentially the same basic approach to the manoeuvre.

  1. Decide you may be able to overtake. 2) From your normal safe ‘two seconds behind’ position (a good rule of thumb for vehicle separation is the two second rule. At whatever speed you are travelling you should be at least two seconds behind the vehicle you are following) move up to the vehicle in front and match speed. 3) If the overtake looks good, check your mirrors and over your right shoulder then indicate and pop out onto the other side of the road, without accelerating, and check from this position if the overtake still looks safe. 4) If all looks good, then accelerate past the vehicle smartly, and once you are safely past pull in again.

This is how the police riders do it, and they ride 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for a living with a miniscule accident rate. If you have ever followed a police biker who is in response mode, then you know they don’t hang about either!

Don’t accelerate up behind another vehicle, then suddenly swing out around them. If the car in front brakes for an unseen hazard with you thundering up behind it can end in tears.

Finally never, never, ever overtake on or coming up to a junction of any sort. Far too many possible disasters! The car you are passing may suddenly turn right; they may swerve to avoid someone who misjudged the stop line; someone may arrive at the junction from the left and just pull out causing the car you are overtaking to swerve; someone may pull out from the right and block your path, etc, etc.

In terms of the driver you are overtaking, the law only requires them to maintain a steady and predictable course. Don’t expect a car driver to brake and let you back in if you get into trouble due to a mistimed overtake, most of them have reactions that are far too slow and they are not programmed that way anyway.

Far better to pass up on an overtake opportunity and arrive home a little late, than botch one and arrive in A&E early !



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