Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Overtake

Once again, more thoughts from my journey to/from Mombasa. This time: Overtaking.

The overtake maneuver on a single lane highway entails: Using the oncoming traffic lane to get past a slower moving vehicle(s) as quickly as possible, and in a manner that does not disrupt other road users (oncoming traffic & traffic going in your direction).

Now for most vehicles I have driven, the best way to do this (not scientific so please correct me where I am wrong) is to leave reasonable space between yourself and the slow moving vehicle you intend to overtake so as to ensure you can see round the vehicle(s), both to see if there is any traffic ahead of you (going in the same direction) or any traffic coming from the opposite direction (this includes oncoming traffic that is overtaking); then time your acceleration so that you carry enough momentum into the maneuver to overtake in the shortest possible time/distance. (You know your car, you know what pick it has, you know what speed it can manage etc etc..all these factors are in play every single time you overtake)

If there is oncoming traffic, leaving reasonable space between yourself and the vehicle you intend to overtake will allow you to see exactly how many vehicles are approaching and at what approximate speed (depending on the road layout obviously). In cases where the road gently curves left, it also allows you to look round the slow moving vehicle 'on the inside' to see what the situation is like ahead. In short, before you overtake, you must have a very clear picture of what lies ahead on both lanes within the approximate distance you will need to execute your overtake maneuver.

You must also have an idea of what vehicles are behind you and what their driving mannerisms might be (because you have been checking your rear view mirror and wing mirrors frequently..they aren't just for checking if your lips have spit lines!)

If there is a queue of vehicles ahead of you, courtesy dictates that you overtake the slowest moving vehicle in order..i.e. first goes first, last goes last, then overtake the next slowest and so on. If you happen to be driving a twin turbo V8 (i.e. if you are the fastest vehicle), don't rush out, let those ahead go first, you'll still catch and pass them later. Only pull out ahead of them if you see a space you can exploit that they may be unable to..but keep in mind that one of your principle aims is not to disrupt traffic in any way. If oncoming traffic has to even dab their brakes because of you, you have have executed your maneuver poorly.

The most common mistake that I see made is people who drive too close to the vehicle they intend to overtake; often a bus, lorry or even a smaller car with tinted windows (which limits line of sight through the car) then keep 'poking out' to 'peep' and see what oncoming traffic looks like. Doing this means that you not only do not develop a clear mental picture of the whole situation before you overtake, but you also do not leave yourself enough room to accelerate into the maneuver. Hence when you do pull out, it will take longer to overtake than it would have otherwise...leaving you in a more dangerous position than you need to be in. Too many times I saw people pull out, start accelerating late and find their vehicle did not have the momentum to make it past in time...and end up aborting their maneuver, wasting time and slowing traffic in cases when had they have done it right, 2 or even 3 cars could have comfortable overtaken the slow vehicle(s).

There are also those who overtake at blind corners or hills but these are just irresponsible people. I cringe anytime I see a fellow with his car full of family doing this. It is toying with life and you should never ever do it.

As I mentioned earlier, this is not scientific, these are just some of the methods I use as I believe they are they are the safest way to overtake (and quickest too!)..irrespective of how big or powerful your engine might be.

Let me know your thoughts and methods but whatever you do, always drive safe and responsibly and do not take unnecessary chances. The one time chance goes against you may be the last time it goes against you.

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