Overtaking laws can be confusing at the best of times, let alone when you are travelling interstate. However, knowing the correct rules and regulations is vital to make sure you stay safe on the road. 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 in our page below, so you can check you’re overtaking correctly.
Overtaking must always be done safely
No matter where you are driving in Australia, overtaking must always be done safely. This means you:
- must always overtake with a clear view of approaching traffic
- must always overtake with sufficient space
- must always signal when overtaking
- must never exceed the legal speed limit to overtake another vehicle
You may not overtake:
- 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 handbook, you may not overtake if you do not have a clear view for at least 150 metres.
Overtake on the right
No matter where you are in Australia, you are generally required to overtake on the right. However, you may overtake on the left if:
- you are driving on a multi-lane road, and the vehicle can be safely overtaken on the left
- you are directed by an authorized person (e.g. police officer);
- the vehicle in the right lane is stationary and it is safe to do so;
- a vehicle is indicating that it is turning right or making a U-turn.
No overtaking on continuous lines
You are not allowed to overtake another car when you are 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 should not overtake a vehicle both when driving next to, but also when approaching, dividing lines that don’t allow overtaking.
Overtaking a cyclist
The laws for overtaking cyclists have not been in place as long as other overtaking laws. However, they are now consistent across Australia.
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 fine or loss of demerit points. The severity of the penalty will depend on the mistake you make. Each state and territory has a number of overtaking offences that reflect the rules outlined above, which include:
- Failing to overtake at a safe distance
- Overtaking at a railway, intersection, or pedestrian crossing
- Overtaking on a continuous white line
- Failing to overtake a cyclist with 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, with harshness differing by state and offence. Tasmania has some of the lowest penalties, with overtaking too close to another vehicle carrying a fine of $168 and 2 demerit points. The same offence in WA carries a fine of $400, and 4 demerit points.
It is also an offence to exceed the speed limit when overtaking, with penalties and fines falling under the general speeding laws.
The information in this article is current as of the 13th of April 2020. Laws and penalties may have changed since this article was created.
The information above comes from the following sources:
Transport for NSW, Overtaking, viewed April 2020, https://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/safety-rules/road-rules/overtaking.html
Queensland Government, Keeping Left and Overtaking, viewed April 2020, https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/rules/road/left
NT Gov, Road Users Handbook, viewed April 2020, https://nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/263029/road-users-handbook.pdf
WA Government, Overtaking, viewed April 2020, https://roadrules.rsc.wa.gov.au/road-rules/overtaking
Mylicence.SA, Overtaking, viewed April 2020, https://mylicence.sa.gov.au/road-rules/the-drivers-handbook/overtaking
Transport Tas, Tasmanian Road Rules, viewed April 2020, https://www.transport.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/152425/Tasmanian_Road_Rules_2017.pdf
VicRoads, Road to Solo Driving Handbook, viewed April 2020, https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/road-rules/road-to-solo-driving-handbook
Transport for NSW, Overtaking Offences, viewed April 2020, https://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/index.cgi?fuseaction=demeritpoints.searchhandler&searchfor=overtaking
Transport Tas, Traffic Offences – Full List, viewed April 2020, https://www.transport.tas.gov.au/licensing/offences/traffic_offences/lister_full
This article has been prepared by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL 234708 (“Allianz”). Information contained in this article is accurate as at 13 April 2020 and may be subject to change. 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. Any opinions expressed constitute our views at the time of issue and are subject to change. Neither Allianz, nor its employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy or accept responsibility for any loss or liability incurred by you in respect of any error, omission or misrepresentation in this article.