Overtaking rules in Australia

Last updated on August 31, 2023
Overtaking laws can be confusing at the best of times, let alone when you’re travelling interstate. Knowing the correct rules is vital to make sure you stay safe on the road and keep other road users, like cyclists, safe too. The laws about overtaking differ slightly depending on the state and territory, but are largely consistent across Australia. We’ve laid out the laws you need to know including the different penalties in each state and territory, so you can check you’re overtaking correctly.
Long straight highway in rural mountainous setting

No matter where you’re driving in Australia, overtaking must always be done safely. This means you must always follow these rules:

  • overtake only when you have a clear view of approaching traffic
  • overtake with sufficient space
  • signal when overtaking
  • never exceed the legal speed limit to overtake another vehicle

You can’t overtake in the following circumstances:

  • another vehicle that is stopping or has stopped at a pedestrian crossing, intersection, or railway crossing
  • when approaching a crest, curve, or any limited vision situation
  • where a road narrows
  • where there is a sign prohibiting overtaking

How close to a crest or curve is it dangerous to overtake? There’s no law about the appropriate distance, but according to the ACT road rules handbook, you shouldn’t overtake if you don’t have a clear view for at least 150 metres.

No matter where you are in Australia, you are generally required to overtake on the right. However, you may overtake on the left in the following circumstances:

  • you are driving on a multi-lane road, and the vehicle can be safely overtaken on the left
  • you are directed by an authorised person (for example, a police officer)
  • the vehicle in the right lane is stationary and it is safe to do so
  • the vehicle is indicating that it is turning right or making a U-turn
Driver in right lane on multi-lane road

You aren’t allowed to overtake another car when you’re driving down a road with double continuous centre lines, or a single continuous centre line on your side. You can overtake if there are broken lines on your side of the road, even if there is a single continuous centre line on the other side.

In Tasmania, the road rules state that you shouldn’t overtake a vehicle both when driving next to or approaching dividing lines that don’t allow overtaking.

Although now consistent across Australia, the laws for overtaking cyclists have not been in place as long as other overtaking laws.

When you overtake a cyclist on a road with a speed limit of 60km/hr or less, you must leave at least 1 metre between your vehicle and the cyclist to pass safely. If the speed limit is greater than 60km/hr, you must leave 1.5 metres.

Overtaking where not permitted is an offence and can result in a penalty or demerit points. The severity of the penalty will depend on the mistake you make. Each state and territory have overtaking offences that reflect the rules outlined above, which include:

  • Overtaking at an unsafe distance
  • Overtaking at a railway, intersection, or pedestrian crossing
  • Overtaking on a continuous white line
  • Overtaking a cyclist without allowing the minimum passing distance
  • Overtaking a vehicle when unsafe
  • Overtaking to the left of a vehicle, unless an exception applies
  • Overtaking a vehicle contrary to a sign

Each offence attracts a fine and demerit points, shown in the table below:

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State or Territory Penalty
ACT Fine: $316
Demerits: 2 points
NSW Fine: $201 to $362
Demerits: 2 points to 3 points
NT Fine: $50 to $120
QLD Fine: $216
Demerits: 2 points
SA Fine: $355 to $423
Demerits: 2 points
TAS Fine: $195 to $438.75
Demerits: No points to 3 points
VIC Fine: $288 to $385
Demerits: 2 points
WA Fine: $150 to $400
Demerits: 2 points to 4 points
It’s also an offence to exceed the speed limit when overtaking, with penalties and fines falling under the general speeding laws. Find out more about speed limits and laws.

This article has been prepared by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL234708 (“Allianz”). In some cases, information has been provided to us by third parties and while that information is believed to be accurate and reliable, its accuracy is not guaranteed in any way.

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