#251 Racing is life – driving techniques – S3 E11 – Overtaking on public roads

Once we can finally handle our car, of course we want to go racing. Well, depending on the type of racing series you chose, there will be other cars on the track with you. Therefore, you need to know how to handle that new situation. But let’s just start very slowly. Due to the reason, that this series is intended as a general introduction into the racing topic, we will discuss the various forms of overtaking and dealing with traffic, on and off track. Therefore, we start today with an overtaking scenario in the public traffic system.

Overtaking on public roads

I guess, everyone was already a part of a normal overtaking maneuver on public roads somehow or another. Either you overtook someone, or someone overtook you. You might were just a passenger, but anyways, you basically know what I am talking about. For sure, the golden rule is to not simply overtake the slower car in front of you in the moment you actually reach it, but instead when it is really possible for you to make the overtaking safely. The most common mistakes I see on a regular basis are the following.

  • Overtaking a car, without seeing if there is traffic coming up or not.
  • Driving with literally no distance behind the slower car, then steering to the left, correcting the steering angle, then accelerating and doing the overtaking.
  • Overtaking, even though there is traffic coming up and causing them to brake in order to avoid an accident.

I guess, everybody can tell us multiple stories about some real idiots that are driving around these days or have been in the past. But that is not really getting us anywhere. Therefore, we can only learn from their mistakes and make sure, that at least we are doing it better. In the following, you can see a little guide about how to do it properly.

  1. Is there a need to overtake the car in front of me?

Sometimes we take the next turn anyways and therefore do not lose much time after all. Risking our life and wasting a lot of energy just for the sake of saving a couple of seconds? That is not really worth the risks, is it?

2. Am I allowed to overtake?

Is it allowed to overtake the car in this special moment, or is it forbidden anyways? At least in Germany, these prohibitions are actually make a lot of sense and try to make the road a safer place.

3. How does the situation look like?

What kind of car do you have? How much traffic is there? How does the weather condition look like? Check all these parameters and make sure that you have a good feeling towards overtaking. If you can honestly say that overtaking is ok, then go for it.

4. Observing the road and the traffic ahead

Most of the time we drive on roads we are already familiar with, therefore there shouldn’t be any surprises coming up after the next corner. But if you are driving on a road you have never ever driven on before, you may wanna know what is coming next. Sure, modern cars show you the road on your navigation system, but even in older cars, you may have your mobile app running anyways, because no-one just drives these days on foreign roads without a navigation system, right? Therefore, we can have a look at what’s coming up behind the next bend, or where we might get the next chance to overtake the car in front of us.

5. Looking forward is good, but checking your mirrors even better.

If there is one thing that you do not want to have after all, then this is the situation, where people from far behind think that their car, or themself are capable of overtaking the whole group. Sometimes these maneuvers look more like kamikaze practice sessions than anything else, where the outcome is most likely unclear, but somehow they manage to get away with it. For sure, just checking your mirrors is not the end of the line. You need to make sure, that the cars behind you do understand, that you are working on the overtaking process. How do you do that? Well, be creative! What about complaining loudly and waving your hands around? Just kidding, of course you are doing that anyways all the time. But you can position your car sometimes a little bit closer to the middle line, making your point very clear that you want to overtake this slow car in front of you. People often times think, that you only see something, if you drive to the left, looking into the unknown, but actually, with a little bit more distance, you will see everything there is to see even without doing these strange maneuvers into the oncoming traffic.

Finally, your moment seem to come closer. After the next car, it will be free!

6. Start accelerating before leaving your lane.

The most common mistake is to actually do not start the acceleration process as early as possible before leaving your lane. What you need to do, is to hold a certain distance to the car in front of you. (More then the required distance should be the goal, because only then you can make the overtaking as efficient as possible.) The moment you realize that there will be a chance coming up, you can already start accelerating in your lane, timing this in such a way, that you will leave your lane as soon as the oncoming traffic drives by with so much speed, that you minimize the time you need to spend in the opposite lane as good as possible.

But don’t forget to watch your mirrors. Before you actually leave your lane, you need to make sure that there is no black BMW coming up out of nowhere from the horizon. But sure, if you do it exactly as I have described, no other car will have the chance to even overtake you in that situation, because the oncoming traffic will prevent them from doing their move before you do yours.

7. Leave some space before getting back into the right lane.

Don’t change the lane right in front of the car you just overtook, only if this is really necessary. Most of the time, the people that do actually drive that slow that we need to overtake them, seem to be overstrained with the situation anyways. Your action can lead to “I don’t know, causing them to start an emergency braking, or to lose the control over their car all together, or what ever such people do“. Therefore, give them some space. The moment you see the car in your inside mirror, you are fine to get back in the right lane.

And I guess that is it, at least considering the actual process. But today, I want to talk about another thing real quick as well.


We have all felt that on the roads. Once there is at least one other car in front of you, before the slower car is cruising around, you are fine. You are just driving behind them and wait until the next one can overtake the car. But the moment you are the one that needs to make the move, the pressure will be on! No one can tell me, that they do not care about that! If there are more then 10 cars waiting behind you, this is pure stress! Physically and mentally. But don’t start panicking! Because once you are there, you are basically overwriting all your safety systems and doing things that you may regret afterwards. Therefore, make sure to relax. Don’t just risk anything, in order to please the others. If you do not think that you can do the overtaking in that particular situation, then you simply wait for the next one. Don’t let them push you into something where you do not want to be after all. Just leave enough space to the car in front of you, therefore other cars will have the opportunity to overtake you as well, in case they have a faster car then you have.

But that is it for today.

See you next time!

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