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Overtaking is one of the most dangerous manoeuvres in vehicle traffic and therefore safety measures must be taken to avoid generating a risk for the driver and third parties.

You might remember from previous articles that there used to be a rule whereas in certain circumstances it was permitted to exceed the maximum permitted speed limit when overtaking. This was to reduce the amount of time that the manoeuvre took, but as that also meant increasing your speed heading towards oncoming traffic, it was deemed a dangerous practice, and that rule was withdrawn in 2022. Now, the maximum permitted speed on any road is exactly that, a maximum.

Overtaking is regulated in the Reglamento General de Circulación, between articles 82 to 89, and in the Tráfico, Circulación de Vehículos a Motor y Seguridad Vial, between articles 32 to 37.

Each year, in Spain, there are more than 2,500 incidents with victims as a result of irregular overtaking, so it is important that we know the rules.

Hopefully you are already aware that overtaking is prohibited when a solid white line is present in the carriageway separating the flow of traffic. There is an exception in that you are permitted to cross this line in order to give cyclists or pedestrians the minimum separation distance when passing, but you may only do this when no vehicles are approaching from the opposite direction.

There may also be signs which tell you overtaking is prohibited on a stretch of road.

However, there are other places where overtaking is not permitted, even where signs and signals do not indicate the prohibition. They are largely in places of poor visibility.

For this reason, overtaking is prohibited in places where, due to lack of visibility, this manoeuvre is particularly dangerous: on curves and gradients without visibility, behind a large vehicle that is overtaking, at level crossings and pedestrians, at some intersections, and tunnels.

In curves and elevation changes without visibility, the driver does not have an adequate view of the road and may encounter another car traveling in the opposite direction, which greatly increases the danger of overtaking.

Behind an overtaking truck we also have a visibility problem because of the volume of the vehicle we are following. At level crossings and surroundings, the risk of a tram or train passing without the driver having enough time to react increases. At the same time, the lateral visibility of the overtaking vehicle is reduced.

Also, at junctions and their proximities, the vehicle you are passing cannot see cars or motorcycles approaching. In pedestrian crossings, the vision of a possible pedestrian crossing is lost, which increases the risk of being run over.

Finally, in tunnels or underpasses with traffic in both directions, overtaking is prohibited, unless there is more than one lane for the direction of the overtaking vehicle.

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