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Rule of the month – Rules 162 and 163 overtaking

Posted on 23/09/22 |

Do you know how much space the Highway Code recommends leaving when overtaking a cyclist at 20mph? 30mph? 40mph?  What about a horse rider or a pedestrian - do the same rules apply?

When the Hierarchy of Road Users was introduced in January 2022, they also introduced recommended safe overtaking distances – and they differ depending on your speed and the type of road user.  You may have seen prosecutions for non-compliance in the press in the last few months.  These distances are often bigger in reality than we think – why not measure them out so you know exactly how much space you should be leaving?   

One other important element, which you’ll notice many non-advanced motorists ignore, is the requirement to wait behind the other road user if the necessary clearances are not possible.  How many vehicles do you see on the road that don’t do that?  It’s getting more common for cyclists and motorcyclists to wear cameras and send their footage to the police, which could lead to the drivers of the offending vehicles being prosecuted for driving without due care and attention. 

Rule 162

Before overtaking you should make sure

  • the road is sufficiently clear ahead
  • road users are not beginning to overtake you
  • there is a suitable gap in front of the road user you plan to overtake.


    Rule 163

    Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should …. give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders and horse drawn vehicles at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211 to 215). As a guide:

  • leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speed
  • pass horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph and allow at least 2 metres of space
  • allow at least 2 metres of space and keep to a low speed when passing a pedestrian who is walking in the road (for example, where there is no pavement)
  • take extra care and give more space when overtaking motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders, horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians in bad weather (including high winds) and at night
  • you should wait behind the motorcyclist, cyclist, horse rider, horse drawn vehicle or pedestrian and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.

For the full detail of rules 162 and 163 and other Highway Code rules, go to

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