How do I overtake?


Understand the dangers of overtaking at the wrong time or place. Overtake a moving vehicle safely and with due regard for others. Use the MSPSL routine as often as necessary throughout the manoeuvre.


If you are approaching a vehicle in front of you very quickly without exceeding the speed limit then you may want to consider overtaking.

Try not to wait until you are right behind the vehicle to overtake.

The dangers of getting too close to the vehicle in front is that your stopping distance may not be enough if they suddenly brake. Your view of the road ahead will also decrease the closer you get to the vehicle in front. Large vehicles, like the one in the diagram, will seriously hinder your view of the road ahead if you get too close.

Is it necessary?

  • Is the vehicle turning off the road?
  • Is there a dual carriageway ahead?

Is it safe?

  • Hidden dips, also known as dead ground, can make it unsafe
  • Overtaking passing side roads is also unsafe

Is it legal?

Look out for signs and road markings. For example, a “no overtaking” sign.

The routine

Your routine may vary slightly depending if you are on single carriageway roads, multi-carriageways or motorways.

Single roads: mirrors, position, speed, look then the usual MSPSL routine again.

Dual carriageways: MSPSL, unless your view ahead is restricted, then refer to the single road routine above.

Overtaking on a single carriageway

Single roads with oncoming traffic potentially approaching


M: Check your interior mirror and door mirror in good time. If it’s clear and safe behind you, proceed to the next step in the routine. If someone else is overtaking, then consider holding back.

P: It’s important to identify any potential hazards approaching before moving out completely, which is why the routine for overtaking is different. Try to position your vehicle so you are half in, half out behind the lorry (see diagram) keeping a good distance back. Remember the closer you get to the lorry, the more you will have to move to the right, in order to increase your view.

S: Keep your speed up with the vehicle in front but don’t get too close. Consider using a lower gear if you need more power to overtake swiftly.

L: Look ahead and at the vehicle in front of you. Is it safe?

M: Re-check your mirrors. Has anything changed?

S: Apply your right signal so vehicles behind and ahead of you understand what you are doing.

P: Keep a smooth line, gradually out and try not to swerve.

S: Overtake quickly, don’t break the speed limit.

L: Look ahead at the road, rather than the vehicle you are passing. Assess any oncoming cars and complete the overtake if it’s safe. Try not to cut back in too early.

Coming back in after an overtake

Apply the MSPSL routine again. Check the interior and left door mirror in good time. You should be able to see the vehicle you have overtaken in your interior door mirror. If you can’t, then avoid moving over to the left side of the road until you can see it in your interior mirror. Once it’s safe, apply your signal and adjust your position to come back across. Keep your speed up (don’t slow down) and look ahead for hazards etc.

Multi-lane dual carriageways

The routine for multiple lane dual carriageways is Mirrors, Signal, Position, Speed, Look (MSPSL).

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