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Safer Driving Tips Page 6

There is a driving skill which is slowly being lost by drivers in this country due in part to road engineers and local authorities with large amounts of white paint to splash about but also due to the larger number of vehicles on our roads as well. What is this particular skill you ask? Well in years gone past there were no motorways and precious few dual carriageways so if you were out driving and you came across a slower moving vehicle then it became necessary to pass that vehicle if you did not want to stay behind it for miles. The drivers in those days learnt early on how to overtake safely. These days that manoeuvre can still be safely accomplished but unfortunately a large number of motorists have not developed the skills required to do so safely. In fact 1 have no doubt that when they are following a large slower vehicle and they themselves are overtaken as well as the vehicle in front of them they exclaim 'How can that idiot overtake when I can't?' Well perhaps it is because the supposed idiot overtaking has learnt to do so in a safe and correct way. Let's run through the sequence of an overtake on a single carriageway, to start with we need to understand the difference between just following the car in front and getting in a position to safely overtake it. The important thing to remember is that an overtake must not cause any inconvenience to the vehicle being overtaken or indeed any other road user. Safety is paramount!

When you are driving and just following the vehicle in front and you have no intention of overtaking you should always adopt the following position. That is leaving a time gap of at least two seconds between you and the car in front. This gives you a safety gap of about 50 yards at 50 mph which is fine for safety but a bit too far behind for a swift safe overtake. However if you are looking to overtake you will be keeping up your forward observation and when you see that it looks like an overtake is likely you need to move up to a much closer position. This we call the contact position and will temporarily reduce our gap from 50yds to about 50ft. Now if there is no oncoming traffic and the overtake looks as if it is on we can move well out to the offside of the road to obtain a clear view of what is ahead of the vehicle we are intending to pass. All this is done whilst maintaining the same speed as the vehicle in front. If we can see all is clear we can accelerate swiftly past it and return to our own side of the road. However it may be that if it is a large lorry or truck that we are following our vision may have been obscured preventing from us seeing a smaller slower vehicle such as a milk float which is in front of and slowing down the lorry By moving out to have a look without actually starting to overtake we now see the milk float, realise the overtake is no longer on and therefore we can safely drop back into our original position behind the lorry.

Never, never start an overtake from directly behind a vehicle, always move out and have a look. It is only too easy to have a quick look along the offside of the vehicle ahead start your overtake by swooping out quickly only to discover the milk float we mentioned earlier when you are half way past the lorry. You then find that you have nowhere to go, no safe gap into which to pull and all you can see is the words Scania looming larger and larger every moment. Not a nice position in which to put yourself. Move out to check and it is a position in which you will not find yourself. So remember if the overtake looks on,

*MOVE UP to the contact position, when clear

*MOVE OUT for a final safety check, if clear

*MOVE ON passing the vehicle as quickly as possible and finally

*MOVE BACK as soon as possible after having safely completed the manoeuvre.

With practice overtaking can be done safely and not only reduce your journey times but also reduce frustration and thereby actually increase road safety.

Finally if you are interested in your driving and if you have read this far then I suspect you are and you would like to improve your driving the Institute of Advanced Motorists can help for a very modest fee sometimes no more than £10 to £15. They can be contacted on 0181994 9903.

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