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Overtaking - don't get caught up wiht a vehicle turning right
As I've mentioned before, overtaking is never 'safe' and in fact, a quick look at the accident statistics reveals just how often motorcyclists get overtaking wrong. Passing another vehicle throws up a whole range of potential errors from misjudging speed and distance (and thus time to collision) to observation failures. Not least, we're always relying on the driver we're passing to do what we expect. Essentially we're always taking a calculated risk, so we should be making the pass in such a way as to minimise the chance of something going wrong. But some riders make one of the mistakes that also one of the easiest to avoid; don't overtake where there is a chance the vehicle we're planning on passing might turn right!
There's a slower vehicle we want to pass. But before we commit to the overtake, it's essential to engage our brain before we engage warp drive.
Let's start with the 'look and feel' of the situation. The vehicle ahead is moving rather slower than we'd expect. Does that mean it's an easy target for an overtake? Or should it set our Spidy Senses tingling that something's not quite right. Why might a vehicle be slower than us? It could simply be that the driver's not in so much of a rush. Or it could mean that the vehicle's about to make a manoeuvre.
Some years ago, we had a long debate on a forum after an experienced rider tailed a Landrover into a right-hand bend, with the Landie driver on the brakes all the way round. The rider knew the road, and that there was a straight after the bend, so he set up his position ready to overtake as soon as his view of the road ahead opened up. As it did, he cut to the other lane and started to accelerate...
...just as the Landrover continued to steer right, into a farm track he'd never noticed before.
The rider just avoided a collision.
There followed the usual debate about the failure of the Landrover driver to use mirrors or signals. But ultimately, it's our own responsibility to ask the question "What if...?" and to come up with the right answer. If there IS a place a vehicle CAN turn right, then sooner or later it WILL turn right.
And of course, what was forgotten in all the righteous indignation about the driver's failings was that "what goes in, must come out". The rider could have set up the same overtake behind another car, and pulled straight into the path of the Landrover turning right OUT of that farm track.
So it's not just the road ahead we need to ensure is clear, we need to scan for places a vehicle could turn in.
We need to look for side roads, access roads to car parks or delivery bays, driveways, farm tracks... and more besides. These entrances are often tough to spot. A side turning can be hidden by anything from a hedgerow to a parked van. It was a parked furniture removals lorry that caught me out years ago. It was parked on the grass, so given the long straight ahead, an overtake past a slower car seemed perfectly reasonable. Only at the last moment did I spot the car pulling out from the side turning - the driver hadn't seen either of us approaching thanks to the same van. Cominig back down the road the other way an hour or so later, I noticed the clue that would have warned me - the finger post pointing into that side road.
There are plenty of side turnings on rural roads, but also plenty of cottages, and each cottage has a driveway. They're often totally blind, concealed behind a neatly-trimmed hedge. The driver can't see out, and we can't see his car either. But there are usually plenty of other clues; the hedge is neatly-trimmed, perhaps with a sliver of mown grass. We might see flowers, a wheelie bin, and even the mirror on the opposite side of the road which the driver uses to compensate for his lack of view. As the No Surprise? No Accident Rhyming Reminder has it, "GAPS=TRAPS".
In town or country, it's tempting to overtake slow-moving delivery vans. But pause for a moment. What do delivery vans do? They deliver. If the driver is constantly slowing down then speeding up again, what's happening? Do you think it might be that he's trying to spot his delivery address? Is it a good idea to overtake as he slows down? Or should we be thinking about hanging back and waiting for him or her to find the building they're searching for? What if the van is simply driving slowly? Could the driver be in a strange town and checking the GPS or route signs to find his way? Is it a good place to nip past? If it's a hire van, and it's come from a different part of the country, that's more than likely. Even if we're looking at a car and thinking that there's no obvious reason for hesitant driving, it could simply be an inexperienced driver at the wheel. Or maybe it's a foreign visitor in a hire car, and not used to driving on our side of the road.
If we do decide we're going to overtake, try to give the driver chance to see us in the mirror. Once committed, pass decisively but slowly enough to be able to take avoiding action. And DON'T BE AFRAID TO SOUND THE HORN - it's what its there for. If the driver hasn't seen us coming, the horn will hopefully make him think twice before swinging across the road and into our path.
But don't give in to impatience. It's easy to do that, and then we get taken out by a driver turning right into an entrance we didn't see. We have to be pretty darn certain there's no way the driver could turn right before passing. There's a Rhyming Reminder rule for that too - "if you don't KNOW, you don't GO".
Overtake cautiously out there!
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