Is it illegal to undertake and what should I do if somebody undertakes me?

It can be frustrating when a car is moving too slowly in the middle or right-hand lane of a motorway, and tempting to pass them on the left.

But is it legal to undertake a car in front of you? And under what circumstances is it allowed?

Is it illegal to undertake?

There’s no specific law against undertaking, or overtaking a car on its left-hand side, on the motorway or on a dual carriageway.

It is, however, advised against in the Highway Code.

Rule 268 states: “Do not overtake on the left or move to a lane on your left to overtake.”

“In congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than traffic to the right.

“In these conditions you may keep up with the traffic in your lane even if this means passing traffic in the lane to your right.

“Do not weave in and out of lanes to overtake.”

But while there is no specific law prohibiting undertaking, it could easily be a dangerous manoeuvre 1; which would be illegal.

If the vehicle is travelling in the middle lane when the lane to its left is clear, the driver could be given a fixed penalty by police.

And depending on the circumstances, any driver undertaking that vehicle on the left could also face a penalty.

In such situations, the police could issue either or both drivers with a £100 fixed penalty notice, or offer a mandatory driver education course for your offence.

If you overtake the vehicle in front dangerously, though, you could face nine points on your licence and a fine of up to £5,000.

What is undertaking?

Undertaking is the act of passing a vehicle moving in the same direction as you on the side closest to the edge of the road.

In the UK, that means passing the slower-moving vehicle on the left.

It’s mostly relevant on multi-lane roads such as motorways and dual carriageways, where traffic uses different lanes for different speeds.

In theory, everyone should use the left-hand lane of the motorway or dual carriageway unless they are overtaking.

But in reality, this isn’t always the case, and traffic gets bunched up in places.

Sometimes drivers spend too long in the middle lane, which annoys some drivers behind.

And when somebody is travelling slowly in the “fast” lane, the right-hand lane, there is no opportunity for vehicles behind to overtake on the right.

You should undertake when signs on the overhead gantries instruct you to “stay in lane”.

What should I do if someone undertakes me?

If somebody undertakes you and you feel that it was dangerous, you can report them to the local police force.

You will ordinarily need video evidence, such as from a dashcam, as well as witnesses.

You may also need to be prepared to attend court and give evidence.

If you realise that you are in the wrong lane and need to move left, you should do so very carefully in case there are more drivers trying to pass you.

Vehicles passing on either side of you will at some point be in your “blind spot” which is why it’s so important to undertake a shoulder check before changing lanes.

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