Understanding The Rules of Overtaking

A Road Sign Saying Keep Left Unless Overertaking

Overtaking is one of the more dangerous aspects of driving and therefore there are strict rulings about how overtaking must be done. This guide will ensure you have a complete understanding of the overtaking rules as well as some additional tips to keep safe while overtaking or while being overtaken. 

Let’s start with the rules:

Keeping Left Rules

There are slight differences in the Keep Left rule depending on the state of Australia you are driving in.

State/TerritorySpeed Limit for Keeping LeftExceptions to Keeping Left
NSWAbove 80km/hOvertaking, turning right, making U-turns, avoiding obstructions, designated vehicle lanes
QLDAbove 90km/hOvertaking, turning right, making U-turns, avoiding obstructions, congested traffic, overtaking on the left on multi-lane roads
VICAbove 80km/hOvertaking, turning right, congested lanes, adjacent to a transit lane
SA80km/h or moreNo explicit signage is required, general practice is to keep left
WAAbove 90km/hOvertaking, making U-turns, avoiding obstructions, right lane not for turning, special use lanes
NTAbove 80km/hOvertaking, making U-turns, avoiding obstructions, 
ACTAbove 80km/hOvertaking,
TASAbove 80km/hOvertaking, regardless of signage

Can You Legally Overtake a Truck?

You are legally allowed to overtake a truck if you are driving following all of the traffic laws outlined above.

However, it is important to know that there is a larger risk factor associated with overtaking a truck due to its size and inability to adjust its speed and direction as quickly. 

Overtaking a Truck on a road

However, it is important to know that there is a larger risk factor associated with overtaking a truck due to its size and inability to adjust its speed and direction as quickly. 

Here are some things to consider when overtaking a truck or other large vehicle:

  • Stopping Distances

Trucks take significantly longer to stop than a car due to their weight. If you overtake a truck ensure you do not cut off the truck as you re-enter the lane

  • Blind Spots

Trucks almost always have much larger blind spots than cars due to their size. It’s important to know where these blind spots are so the truck driver is aware of you.

  • Directly in front of the truck and approximately 30 feet in front of it
  • Directly behind the truck and approximately 30 feet behind it
  • Directly beside the truck’s left door

Tip: If you are unable to see the truck’s mirrors, they are unable to see you!

Safety Tips for Overtaking Trucks

Now that we have covered the risks, let’s look at some additional safety tips:

  • Ensure that the lane you plan to use for overtaking is clear for a large distance. It takes approximately 25 seconds to overtake a truck, which is a long time and a large distance.
  • Before starting the overtaking maneuver check the truck’s indicator lights. If they are indicating then wait. 
  • In wet conditions be aware of the spray back from the truck, the increased stopping time and reduced visibility.
  • On a downhill, the truck’s speed will likely increase so take this into account. 

Can You Exceed the Speed Limit When Overtaking?

No, it is always illegal to exceed the speed limit regardless of the situation. There can be quite severe penalties for speeding and you will almost always be found to be at fault for an accident if you are speeding.

Can You Use a Bus Lane to Overtake?

Yes, you are allowed to use a bus lane to overtake as long as the vehicle is turning right or making a U-turn, as long as you travel no more than 100m in the bus lane.

There are strict rules around the usage of bus lanes and you are only allowed to enter and use a bus lane in specific circumstances.

Bus lane painted on road

These are:

  • When you are required to enter or leave to another road or property over the bus lane.
  • To overtake a vehicle that is turning right or using the centre of the road to make a U-turn.
  • To avoid an obstruction.

The 100m limit applies to all of the above.

Can You Overtake on a Broken White Centre Line?

Yes, you can overtake a broken white central line (also called a broken white dividing line). These lines allow you to cross the line to overtake, leave the road or make a U-turn when it is safe to do so.

Can You Overtake on the Left?

No, overtaking on the left (or curbside) is generally not allowed unless the vehicle in front is turning right or you’re driving on a multi-lane road with marked lanes.

Can I Overtake on the Right?

Yes, overtaking on the right is the standard for overtaking in Australia. You must keep left as discussed previously in this guide until you plan to overtake and it is safe to do so.

What Must You Do When Overtaking a Motorcyclist?

The risk of injury and accidents in general is much higher with motorcyclists so greater care must be taken when overtaking them.

They are much more unstable and are affected by wind and road conditions to a much greater degree than cars or trucks

Overtaking a motorbike

Here are some helpful safety tips when overtaking a motorcycle:

  • Check your blind spots more carefully
  • Leave a larger gap when overtaking 

If you are a motorcyclist and have been involved in a not-at-fault accident we have launched a new accident replacement motorcyclist service, which you can read more about.

What Should You Do When Someone Overtakes You?

As a driver being overtaken by another vehicle, it is your responsibility to:

  • If it’s safe, stay to the left to provide ample room for the overtaking vehicle.
  • Remain within your lane.
  • Refrain from accelerating until the overtaking vehicle has fully passed and re-entered the lane or traffic flow.
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