Dangerous Overtaking – the second most important human error responsible for road accidents all over the world

Dr Sanjay Kulshrestha
Conscious Citizens, India

Dangerous Overtaking :- This is the second- most common human error responsible for accidents. Owing to high speed and full acceleration during overtaking, the chances of fatal accidents are much greater.

1.The Need: First and foremost, do you really need to overtake the vehicle ahead?
You must have observed that on highways most vehicles run in clusters of different speeds. Some drivers choose to drive at a slower speed while others choose a higher speed. So you may find clusters of vehicles at different speed ranges, 30-40 km/hr, 50-60 km/hr or 80-90 km/hr and so on.

If you are moving at 80-85 km/hr, you are fully justified in overtaking a vehicle moving at 30-40km/hr or 50-60 km/hr. However, it is not wise to overtake a vehicle moving in the same cluster [speed range].

For example, if you are moving at 80-85km/hr you will not gain much by overtaking a fellow vehicle driving by at 90 km/hr except, perhaps an unexplained ego boost. Throughout the journey you will find that various vehicles belonging to the same cluster will keep on changing their positions and ultimately everyone will reach the destination more or less at the same time. 

2. Assess The Time: whether you have ample time to overtake or not.
It is the difference between the speed of the two vehicles [yours and the one that you are going to overtake] that will determine how much time it will take to overtake. If the speed of vehicle ahead is much slower than yours, it would take less time to overtake. On the contrary, if you try to overtake a vehicle that is running with a speed closer to yours, it would take much more time to overtake.

Remember It has been found that in a majority of cases the actual time required to overtake a vehicle is just the double of what is estimated by driver ! If another vehicle is coming from opposite direction, judge whether you would be able to overtake without colliding.

3. Assess the road: [A] Do you have a clean, straight visible patch of road without vehicles in front of you?
[B] Whether the condition of road is good with no water, mud, sand or potholes, otherwise on applying sudden brakes your vehicle may skid.

4. Assess The Pick-up: Before trying to overtake another high speed vehicle, do check the pick-up of your vehicle, especially if it is overloaded. It might land you in trouble in the midst of overtaking. So don’t be adventurous with a khatara, a ramshackle vehicle. 

5. Is the driver ahead aware of your intention to overtake him?
Wait for him to give you a pass. Most of us become impatient if other vehicles do not give us a pass. Some aggressive drivers forcibly try to overtake and frequently meet with an accident. Discreet judgment is very necessary. 
6. It is risky when you try to overtake forcefully more than one vehicle in one go.
If your attempt at overtaking all the vehicles is unsuccessful, then one of the drivers of vehicles that has been just overtaken, has to create space to accommodate your vehicle in front of him just to save you. Just imagine what would happen if there is a driver who is not the benevolent type and decides to teach you a lesson by not accommodating your vehicle !

While overtaking In India always remember two unexpected odds. One is Reverse lane driving and the other one is erratic road side parking of vehicles

[A] Reverse lane driving
When you drive on a divided highway, you feel relaxed that at least you would not face a head on collision. However, it does not hold true for Indian roads. It is surprising to know that incidences of head on collisions is more or less the same in both divided and single lane highways [around 20%]. There are a number of byroads leaving or joining highways and vehicles from these side roads join highways from whichever direction they please. 

[B] Erratic parking on Roads :
Irresponsibly parked vehicles on roads [trucks, tractors, cars, etc] are the cause of accidents in 20-25% of cases on highways. 

Do not peep out all of a sudden from behind the vehicle being overtaken as you may miss the vehicle that is coming from the opposite direction. Instead start overtaking well before in such a case.

This was about overtaking on high ways. Now let us see some interesting facts on overtaking inside the cities.

Overtaking in Cities:
In our country everyone seems to be in a great hurry just like the drivers of a fire brigade or ambulance. Regardless of whether space and conditions permit overtaking, people constantly ask for a pass by blowing horns. They do not tolerate any delay and overtake in a strange fashion from any side. Quite frequently when you are preparing to give a pass to someone on your right, suddenly another vehicle zooms past from your left side leaving you bewildered! 

They say everything is fair in love and war and now in traffic, too it seems. Perhaps newer technologies will invent cars with wings so that drivers addicted to speeding and overtaking can vent out their frustration in situations where they do not get a pass and fly away!
Sometimes people turn it into an ego problem, and feel insulted if somebody overtakes them as if they have been labeled as poor or lazy drivers. Sometimes if a smaller vehicle, e.g. Maruti 800 wants to get ahead of an SUV, the driver of larger vehicle may feel extremely slighted [how dare you!] and try to run faster unnecessarily just to prove that he and his vehicle are superior.

If you are in a party, having a gathering of cultured people, an expression, ‘excuse me’ is all that is needed to let you pass through, and that, too, with a smile! However, that kind of response is missing on our Indian roads. Different cultures or education, or probably the lack of it on our roads may a factor for this.

A Few Precautions While Overtaking Trucks :
Some facts about Truck Drivers:
1. Their thinking may be different, as they are more concerned with safety of the goods inside rather than the safety of public on the road. 

2. Most of the trucks are overloaded and an imbalance of such a heavy vehicle poses a real problem. Thus drivers avoid taking a swift or acute turn suddenly if they are supposed to do so to save someone. For the same reason they do not prefer to take the truck off road in such situations. 
3. Be Visible to Truck Drivers. Truck drivers rely mainly on their mirrors and there are some blind spots to them like on both the sides and immediately behind the truck where truck driver cannot see you.

Stay slightly to the right of your lane, so you can be seen in the truck driver’s mirror. Never follow so closely that a truck driver cannot see your vehicle in the mirror. If you can’t see driver in mirror, the truck driver probably also cannot see you!

4. Most trucks need a longer distance to stop. So if there is a truck behind you, signal your intentions well before turning, slowing or stopping, so that truck drivers behind you get more time to apply their brakes.

When stopped, especially going uphill, a truck may roll back farther than a car when a driver releases brakes and engages clutch. Leave at least a distance of one car length between your vehicle and truck ahead while going uphill.

5. Since truck drivers have less chances of being hurt in case of a collision, they have fewer inhibitions in such situations.

6. They frequently drink while driving. Surveys reveal that more than 75% drivers consume alcohol during driving

7. It has been found that more than 60% drivers have fake driving licenses. They are not properly trained and their knowledge regarding traffic rules is extremely poor.

8. The educational status in truck drivers is very low especially in English. Drivers carrying freight have to move frequently to different States in India, having their own regional languages. That makes it difficult for truck drivers to understand road signs.

One of the uneducated truck drivers argued, that if in India an uneducated or angootha chhap person can be allowed to contest an election to run the entire country then why can’t he run a mere vehicle. Who will make this driver realize that politics may be a child’s or son’s play but driving a vehicle is certainly a very responsible job !

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Coming topics in this series:

•How to decongest our cities
• Vehicle induced environmental pollution
• Arrogance on Roads: Aggressive driving and Road rage
• Public Attitude towards traffic rules in the City
• Problems of pedestrians
• Road traffic and global warming
• The economics of vehicles
• Petroleum Subsidy: Right or Wrong?
• Biography of urban roads in India
• Traffic Policeman: Problems & Challenges
• Drinking & Driving

More information