Overtaking on motorways and the application of the Highway Code in this area

ABB125

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I've created this thread to avoid cluttering up the speed cameras thread. Basically, it's a bit like the Aviation Discussion thread, but for roads/cars!

Here are the most recent posts from the speed camera thread:

Can you be overtaking (in lane 2) if you can't see the vehicle you're overtaking (further ahead in lane 1) at the time? I'm thinking of the M20 just outside London which is quite hilly and has lots of HGV use. So a "middle lane hogger" at 65 could legitimately be overtaking the next lorry at 60 even if they don't know it yet :)

Sometimes one sees a vehicle using the middle lane when the first lane is clear. I like to move from the first to the second to the third to overtake them, signalling clearly then the same 3-2-1, wondering if the member of CLOD (Center Lane Owner Drivers) might wake up and move over.

No need to get too upset, I don't suppose they cause many 'accidents' through their relaxed driving style.

Every day is a school day - I thought it was, but evidently not! I always wondered how the law made a distinction between undertaking in constant streams of traffic and doing so on emptier roads. Answer - it doesn’t.

You just need to be careful in case they move back without signalling or looking!

From the highway code:


Not illegal (it is not "You Must Not..."), but it is poor practice, except during congestion.

Undertaking certainly should be restricted. More rules are needed!

I’d say compared to being in Lane 3 of a 4 lane motorway, doing 65 with nothing in lanes 1 or 2 for a few hundred metres, and not paying the slightest bit of attention to what’s coming up behind you... then carefully undertaking in Lane 1 is the lesser of two evils there!

And if one were to, accidentally, lean on the horn for 3 seconds whilst completing the manoeuvre, whilst your child gesticulated wildly at then from the back seat, then that would be a remarkable coincidence.

Granted

I do personally do that occasionally with Lane 3 hoggers (usually on a 4 lane motorway) - carefully undertake using Lane 1, with Lane 2 clear as a "barrier lane".

Depending on the circumstances it *could* be prosecuted as driving without due care and attention, but then so can middle lane hogging - if the middle lane wasn't being hogged there would be no need for it.

Assuming lane 3/4 is available, though, I find one of the most satisfying acts available legally on the motorway (!) is to approach a middle-lane-hogger in the left lane, then, indicating correctly and leaving appropriate safe distances, to indicate, pull out to lane 3, overtake, and again indicating return to lane 1. Very often this wakes them up and they move left.

It's up there with being incredibly polite to someone who's giving you a gobful on the phone.

There is nothing wrong with passing on the left.

If:

A lorry is in the left hand lane going 55mph
You are in the middle lane doing 70mph
An idiot is in the right lane doing 65mph

...there is nothing wrong with passing the idiot to his left. He shouldn't be in that lane if he isn't "making progress".

Being behind someone and undertaking in a fast or aggressive manoeuvre isn't clever though, and in some situations can amount to careless driving.

Yes I do that too, but increasingly it seems to have no effect.




or she. Let’s not be presumptious!

Rule 264: You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear

If you're in the left lane, no need to exit the left lane unless the left lane is blocked - indeed you positively shouldn't leave the left lane unless it's not clear
Do carry on!
 
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LSWR Cavalier

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I think there should be more musts and must nots. The text about undertaking allows some things that seem not to make sense. I prefer not to undertake, even if allowed, even if not doing so costs valuable seconds. Clear rules are needed, not suggestions or recommendations
 

Domh245

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I think there should be more musts and must nots. The text about undertaking allows some things that seem not to make sense. I prefer not to undertake, even if allowed, even if not doing so costs valuable seconds. Clear rules are needed, not suggestions or recommendations

The problem with 'clear rules' is that things are seldom black & white enough in the real world for them to work. A "you must not overtake a car on the left" for example would cause all manner of issues in jams, so unless you then have a "you must not overtake a car on the left, unless x y z", which requires very careful, and thorough criteria to be established (which apart from being impossible, could make it very difficult to apply in the real world), you're basically expecting people to break the 'rule' which is even worse.

Out of interest, which specific bit of the rule makes no sense?
 

Domh245

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The excessive use of soft language, 'should' instead of "must" as mentioned above.

But there is no 'should' in the bit about undertaking??

The only 'should' in relation to lane discipline is:

You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past. Slow-moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking. You MUST NOT drive on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or if directed to do so by the police, traffic officers in uniform or by signs.

(the other shoulds on motorway driving relate to lists of what to do when joining, leaving, and overtaking, and what speed to drive when on the motorway)

I just don't see how it doesn't make sense, nor how a "must" would make it any better whilst being practical
 

LSWR Cavalier

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Musts would make things clearer and simpler: for example 'you must use the nearside lane where possible'. If lane discipline were better, there would be less temptation to undertake.

When passing two-wheelers one "should leave as much space as when passing a car" (hc)
How much, or how little? Two metres should be quoted as the minimum (must!). If there is not room to pass safely you must wait. If there is not enough room to keep 2m from a cyclist going the other way, STOP and let her crawl by. Do NOT move off before she is clear.
 

Bletchleyite

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I think there should be more musts and must nots. The text about undertaking allows some things that seem not to make sense. I prefer not to undertake, even if allowed, even if not doing so costs valuable seconds. Clear rules are needed, not suggestions or recommendations

The problem with a "clear rule" on undertaking is that if someone is sat there in lane 3 at 60mph the whole road is then stuck behind them.

I wouldn't have an issue with a Highway Code non-legal "should" though, e.g. "You should not move left to overtake another vehicle to their left, even where that person is in the incorrect lane. When changing lanes to overtake, this should always be to the right. This carries considerable risk because they may not expect this or see you. However, where traffic is moving in queues, it is not necessary to change lanes to overtake, it is safer to stay in lane."

The latter is definitely already in, the former might help if it's not there already?

"Shoulds" don't carry legal weight on their own but can aid a careless/dangerous driving/DWDCAA conviction.
 

Domh245

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Musts would make things clearer and simpler: for example 'you must use the nearside lane where possible'. If lane discipline were better, there would be less temptation to undertake.

You undermine "must" with the "where possible" though - hence the use of "should" in the first place! Agreed that the root cause of (most) undertaking is poor lane discipline, but the issue there isn't that the highway code is ambiguous, but that most people don't receive any sort of formal motorway training/testing IMO (but that's a whole other separate and complicated matter)

When passing two-wheelers one "should leave as much space as when passing a car" (hc)
How much, or how little? Two metres should be quoted as the minimum (must!). If there is not room to pass safely you must wait. If there is not enough room to keep 2m from a cyclist going the other way, STOP and let her crawl by. Do NOT move off before she is clear.

But the issue here though is that a 2m distance is far too rigid. Overtaking a cyclist doing (eg) 10mph on a 20mph zone doesn't need 2m, and equally when overtaking a cyclist doing 10mph on a 60mph road 2m is probably a little on the close side - leaving it to common-sense judged "as much space" is the only practical way of doing this, we just need to make sure that more people are singing from the same hymn sheet!

I just don't agree that overregulation is a solution - fewer, simpler rules applied by a more collectively minded populace would be the preferable situation, more thorough screening of what people call common-sense may have to do in the mean time
 

Bletchleyite

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Musts would make things clearer and simpler: for example 'you must use the nearside lane where possible'. If lane discipline were better, there would be less temptation to undertake.

Musts generally reflect absolute, strict liability law, i.e. you can in all circumstances be prosecuted for not following them. For example, "you must not exceed the posted speed limit" or "you must not use a hand-held mobile phone while driving" - there is no circumstance under which doing so is legally acceptable.

Woolly "musts" are not a good thing.

"You must keep in the leftmost lane unless you are overtaking another vehicle" is probably reasonable, though, perhaps with a clarification of "This should only be for the length of time required to perform the overtake safely, including maintaining safe stopping distances at all times".

When passing two-wheelers one "should leave as much space as when passing a car" (hc)
How much, or how little? Two metres should be quoted as the minimum (must!). If there is not room to pass safely you must wait. If there is not enough room to keep 2m from a cyclist going the other way, STOP and let her crawl by. Do NOT move off before she is clear.

I'm sorry, that's impractical nonsense. How much distance is required depends on a huge number of factors, just as it does a car. The basic premise is that you need to leave as a minimum as much space between your left wing mirror and the right handlebar tip as you would if the handlebar tip was the right wing mirror of a car, i.e. not sneak past 6" away.

The best approach, which is what I do, is to pull fully into the other lane as you would if you were passing a car, tractor or whatever, which offers the cyclist as much clearance as is physically possible on that road, but there are circumstances when that isn't safe or appropriate. Often a cyclist will recognise this, move left and wave the car past. It is to nobody's benefit to be cycling along with a car stuck behind you for a long period. It wastes the driver's time, it's inconsiderate, it causes stress, and the threat to your safety is behind you where you can't see it rather than in front of you where you can. Best is to work with the driver to enable a safe overtake as soon as possible, then he's no longer a threat to you.
 

miami

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But the issue here though is that a 2m distance is far too rigid.

Specifying 2m is meaningless - most people can't judge 2m at the best of times (see social distancing), let alone while operating 2 tons of metal travelling at 10metres per second


As for MUST vs SHOULD, imagine this

You MUST always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear.

That would mean you would be breaking the law to pull out to lane 3 to overtake a vehicle in lane 2 if you were already in lane 1 and the road ahead was clear.
 

Ianno87

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You MUST always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear.

...except if you've got a car in the left hand land alongside but slightly (but not fully) behind you....
 

Bletchleyite

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Or you create a situation where driving in the middle lane on an empty motorway to avoid debris or bad rutting is not legal.

It's definitely something that works better with a "should" because so many feasible exceptions exist.

A campaign of actual police pulling people over for doing it and giving them a stern talking to (and checking their vehicle for other faults and prosecuting them for those, if any, e.g. bald tyres or bulbs out) would probably pay dividends on this, to be honest, but that would require funding for adequate policing - the lack of which does tend to be at the root of an awful lot of crime issues in the UK, not just road "misuse".
 
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LSWR Cavalier

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2 metres is easy to estimate: width of a vehicle, height of a person. If a 'must' cannot be fulfilled: stop, wait, drop back.

Fewer people are killed immediately in 'accidents' than years ago, but I think the figure is still unacceptable. Not to mention many who die more than 30 days after the crash (they are counted as seriously injured) or people who are permanently disabled.

Th system is broken and must be changed. Would halving 'accidental' deaths each year be worth trying to implement? My answer: yes!
 

bluenoxid

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I think we are moving beyond halving and should be seriously looking at vision zero instead.

With regards to the left hand lane instruction would adding where it is safe to do so be the acceptable clause?
 

Domh245

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2 metres is easy to estimate: width of a vehicle, height of a person. If a 'must' cannot be fulfilled: stop, wait, drop back.

A must has to have some sort of evident basis to it though. Insisting on a 2m gap to overtake at low speeds is frankly ridiculous, and would just lead to people feeling empowered to break other, far more important, "musts"
 

Bletchleyite

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I think we are moving beyond halving and should be seriously looking at vision zero instead.

Assuming you mean "zero accidents" the only way you will achieve that is banning cars.

With regards to the left hand lane instruction would adding where it is safe to do so be the acceptable clause?

Musts need to be strict-liability, really. If you introduce woolly concepts they become valueless and are better as "shoulds" used, where appropriate, to feed into the three "not driving very well"* convictions as needed.

* Careless/dangerous driving and driving without due care and attention.
 

A Challenge

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I think we are moving beyond halving and should be seriously looking at vision zero instead.
Surely it's better to have an achievable target of halving deaths than a vision zero which is impossible - a goal of zero might make sense with low numbers, but with 27,820 people killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents in the UK in 2019, we are, unfortunately, nowhere near.
 

LSWR Cavalier

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Halving each year is feasible for 2-3-4 years certainly

Just like on the railway, where in many years no passengers are killed. Apparently there were suggestions some years ago for traffic law enforcement to be hived off to specialist organisations, shame that did not happen. Now it is just another function like 'education' or supervising football matches.
 

Ianno87

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Surely it's better to have an achievable target of halving deaths than a vision zero which is impossible - a goal of zero might make sense with low numbers, but with 27,820 people killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents in the UK in 2019, we are, unfortunately, nowhere near.

Agree, zero, at this point in time, is an unrealistic target (targets that are unachievable aren't targets). In fact, as soon as a car's ignition is turned on, risk is involved.

I think, police resources allowing, there should be a zero tolerance policy on things like use of mobile phones, speeding and careless/inconsiderate driving, which would all make a different. The standards which drivers are held to presently simply aren't high enough.
 

MotCO

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A campaign of actual police pulling people over for doing it and giving them a stern talking to (and checking their vehicle for other faults and prosecuting them for those, if any, e.g. bald tyres or bulbs out) would probably pay dividends on this, to be honest, but that would require funding for adequate policing - the lack of which does tend to be at the root of an awful lot of crime issues in the UK, not just road "misuse".

I've often thought that a greater police presence on the roads would help encourage higher driving standards. Speed cameras only catch speeders - they do not catch poor drivers (e.g. those they weave in and out of different lanes.) The imposition of fines could actually make them self-financing.

Other pet hates: lorries overtaking each other on two lane motorways, when one is travelling at 60 mph, the other at 60.0001 mph. The absence of indicating to change lanes (essential when you have a car in lane 1 pulling out into lane 2, and at the same time a car pulling in from lane 3 into lane 2 - if neither car was indicating, neither would know the intentions of the other.)
 

zwk500

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My personal favourite solution to driving standards (generally, but the Motorways are the worst) is time-limited licenses. Train, Plane and commercial road drivers have to renew their certification all the time, why should private drivers be the exception? First licence lasts for 5 years, all licenses after that for 10 years. Or maybe 3 and 5 years.

That and make it mandatory for all drivers to have a copy of the highway code physically present in the vehicle. Then if you're pulled over you've got no excuse for not knowing what you should have been doing.
 

GB

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My personal favourite solution to driving standards (generally, but the Motorways are the worst) is time-limited licenses. Train, Plane and commercial road drivers have to renew their certification all the time, why should private drivers be the exception? First licence lasts for 5 years, all licenses after that for 10 years. Or maybe 3 and 5 years.

That and make it mandatory for all drivers to have a copy of the highway code physically present in the vehicle. Then if you're pulled over you've got no excuse for not knowing what you should have been doing.

Most people that drive like idiots are probably perfectly capable of driving normally during a test so I don't see how constant retesting will make much difference. In the occupations you list above, its in their interest to not brake rules etc as its part of their job and have regular assessments and downloads. That's not the case with private drivers hence why we have a police force, councils and a multitude of cameras to help keep people in line.
 

zwk500

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Most people that drive like idiots are probably perfectly capable of driving normally during a test so I don't see how constant retesting will make much difference. In the occupations you list above, its in their interest to not brake rules etc as its part of their job and have regular assessments and downloads. That's not the case with private drivers hence why we have a police force, councils and a multitude of cameras to help keep people in line.
Several studies and experiments by media and academics have demonstrated that actually many can't. I'm not saying we could do away with road policing, but I think that being updated regularly will help take the most dangerous drivers off the roads, and give lazy drivers a bit of a kick up the arse. For safe, competent drivers they should have nothing to fear. I like to consider myself in the latter category, but I daresay if I took my test tomorrow I wouldn't get as good a mark as I did when I took my test.
 

Ianno87

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Most people that drive like idiots are probably perfectly capable of driving normally during a test so I don't see how constant retesting will make much difference. In the occupations you list above, its in their interest to not brake rules etc as its part of their job and have regular assessments and downloads. That's not the case with private drivers hence why we have a police force, councils and a multitude of cameras to help keep people in line.

The sort of things that people fail tests on are things like not checking mirrors and blind spots properly, which most "idiots" won't be doing, as they'll have fallen into bad habits.
 

DriverEight

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The excessive use of soft language, 'should' instead of "must" as mentioned above.
You can't use the words must or must not unless something is specifically an offence, like speeding - you must not break the speed limit. Undertaking isn't strictly speaking illegal, it's just considered bad practice. If you were seen doing it and it was considered dangerous, you'd be reported for careless or dangerous driving, not undertaking. That leaves it open for the police and the courts to interpret the law according to the specific circumstances of each case.
 

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