How to Overtake and Pass a Car (Without Freaking Out)

pass a car
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You’re on the highway and hugging the right, slow lane. You’re nervous because it’s your first time cruising at these speeds. People are whizzing around, but you’re staying strong in your lane.

But… it happens.

You get up behind someone going way too slow, even for the right lane. Traffic is coming to a crawl, and you’ve got places to go. Your brain attempts to remember the rules for passing cars, but you’re hesitant and continue riding it out.

Learning when and how to overtake a car is an essential driving skill. Doing it properly will get you to the destination on time but, more importantly, safely.

Overtaking a Vehicle 101: Safely Pass a Car with These Steps

The right lane is generally reserved for slower traffic entering/existing roadways. Yet, some drivers may use the left as their slow lane — meaning you’re forced to get around by going on the right side.

The following should help you overtake a vehicle regardless of their lane and do so with safety for you (and other drivers) in mind.

Preparing yourself:

  1. Check your surroundings and speed. Do a scan of your immediate surroundings and what’s coming ahead. Ask yourself if there are ample distance and clearance to make a move without disrupting other drivers or putting yourself at risk. Likewise, ask if going the extra speed would truly matter, like if your exit is soon and you can wait it out.
  2. Check for surrounding and oncoming traffic. Check for other drivers in your vicinity, whether it’s one lane or the highway. Watch the driver behind you as they may try to overtake you around the same time. Or if someone is speeding and catching up from behind. Make sure you have ample distance if there are oncoming cars, too, as it takes a while to get up-to-speed when overtaking the vehicle.
  3. Respect the road rules and signs. Check for signs and signals that you shouldn’t pass. This could include signs marked as ‘No Passing’ or if the driver ahead may be slowing for cyclists or pedestrian crossing. Don’t attempt to pass on a double-line, around a curve, or crest over a hill as your visibility drops, and you never know who may swing out.

Making a move:

  1. Give space and get up to speed. Don’t tailgate; let your vehicle drop back so you can get up-to-speed when overtaking. This helps you pass without trying to floor it and then swinging out.
  2. Use your signals (properly). Don’t start overtaking and then flip the signals. Have your signals on well ahead to alert the driver ahead and those behind. Stay alert since some drivers won’t respect your signaling by checking in front, your side, and the mirrors.
  3. Get up and around. Accelerate and leave space on the side of the vehicles. Overtake the slower car, signal to get back over after giving extra space, and merge back into the original lane.

There you have it.

You’ve successfully passed a vehicle the safe way. Over time, you’ll get the hang of this, as it can frequently happen in your daily commute. Always stay alert, don’t drive distracted, and stay calm when doing so, and you’ll do just fine.

A Note About Being Overtaken

Sometimes you’re overtaken because you may be driving slow or someone wants to speed by. When this happens, stick to your speed and lane without overreacting. Let them get around and be on their way.

Sometimes it’s frustrating having someone ride you and drive wildly. But it’s best to drive defensively and calm vs. getting mad and feeling road rage. Let them deal with the consequences of their driving — focus on your driving, always.

If you ask how to overtake and pass a car, there are some key things to remember. First, signal early, so the driver ahead of you knows your intentions. Second, speed up gradually so as not to startle the other driver or give them any reason to brake suddenly. Third, stay aware of traffic around you at all times and be prepared to adjust your plan if necessary. And finally, once you’ve safely passed the car ahead of you, don’t forget to check your blind spot and signal again before returning to your original lane. Following these tips will help ensure that both you and the drivers around you remain calm and safe on the roadways.