Where and When Can You Overtake on UK Roads?

Approximately 3 minutes reading time

Where and when SHOULD and SHOULDN'T you Overtake on UK Roads?

Several studies have found that overtaking is one of the most dangerous maneuvers you can undertake on UK roads, accounting for a disproportionate share of accidents and fatalities.

A study by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) accounts for 34% of fatal crashes, 32% of severe injury crashes, and 39% of slight injury accidents. The data also showed that around one in eight overtaking maneuvers resulted in an accident.

However, overtaking, particularly on single carriageway roads, continues to be associated with a high number of casualties. 

A vast number of people in the UK lose their lives on motorcycles due to motorcyclists overtaking when they should not be doing so. It is a dangerous maneuver, and most professional drivers know to keep a fair distance from their fellow road users, mainly when someone is overtaking them. However, some drivers forget this and make mistakes that are not just irresponsible but also illegal.

Where can and can't you overtake on UK roads?

The Motorways

A motorway is a controlled-access road that generally features high speeds-overtaking on them is permitted only when you're leaving the highway and merging with a carriageway and integrating with the other lane. The right-hand lane can also be used for faster speeds as well as overtaking. Any other overtaking is illegal and dangerous, even if you're engaging in normal road behavior.

Private Roads

But it gets more complicated when you're on a private road. Many drivers forget that they can't overtake on private roads and ignore the signs. However, if you're moving on a private road and see a car approaching from behind, you have to arrange your passage. Any cut-off is legal only if someone is moving outside your lane or signals that they intend to close the lane, in which case you must stop. But otherwise, you're not allowed to overtake on private roads.

Local B Roads

The local B road is the minor road in a county that allows for one-way traffic flow. Many people think they can overtake when they want to, but if you look at the sign carefully, you will realize that this is not possible where it says 'no overtaking.'

You should always only overtake another vehicle if the road is long enough for you to do so without endangering yourself or other motorists on the road. For example, streets in the center of town may not be wide enough for you to squeeze in between a car and a parked van or another vehicle.

The rule of thumb is that if there are three lanes on your side of the road, you should never overtake on the inside lane unless all other traffic is also slowing down. However, it is better not to overtake as this will make progress slower.

When can you overtake on UK roads?

When driving, you need to consider that many drivers and pedestrians can often be put in danger by you overtaking them. It is a complex maneuver that requires careful thought and planning. 

On public roads, you can overtake if and when it is safe, though there are no specific times during which you may overtake, and you need to check whether there are any speed limits in place and, if so, whether they are appropriate. Make sure the road that you're driving on allows for overtaking before doing so. 

On private roads, you are allowed to overtake if it is safe to do so. However, it would be best if you looked out for possible hazards on the road when you do overtake.

The Highway Code states that you should only overtake if:

  • The road ahead is clear: in other words, there is no oncoming traffic, and the vehicle ahead has not indicated to turn left.
  • You have a clear view of the road, free from pedestrians and cyclists.
  • The road is not too narrow, and you don't risk a collision with oncoming traffic.
  • There is no risk of a head-on collision.

 You must not overtake if:

  • You cannot see a long way ahead (into the distance), and there is no room for error. 
  • You are being overtaken or think someone may overtake you.
  • You are on a bend or at a crest or hump in the road and cannot see ahead to ensure no traffic is coming.
  • You are approaching traffic lights or a level crossing, and you think they may turn red.
  • The vehicle ahead is signaling to turn. If it turns out that the vehicle is signaling to turn right and there is oncoming traffic, you must wait for the oncoming vehicles to pass before overtaking.


When overtaking, you need to be aware of the dangers that overtaking poses to you, other road users, and those on the side of the road or in your path. It would be best if you did it only when it is safe, which means when you have a clear view of your path, and there are no pedestrians or cyclists in the way. You should stay below the speed limit when on the road and take your time to drive effectively, and plan your maneuvers.

Remember, only overtake on roads where you're allowed to. To know this, there will be signs scattered around telling you if you can or can't overtake on that road, so never take your eyes off the road. Missing the road sign and overtaking when you shouldn't will result in penalties and possibly a fine and points. 

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