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Mastering the art of overtaking: A detailed guide using the MSPSL routine

Overtaking a slower vehicle is a common manoeuvre on the road but one that requires careful consideration and precise execution. Utilizing the MSPSL (Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed, Look) routine, we will delve into the intricacies of performing a safe, necessary, and legal overtake.

While you take lessons with your ADI, you will learn to perform the following manoeuvre as you gain confidence and are approaching the standard to sit your practical driving test. Let’s take a look below of what you need to do to perform this manoeuvre safely.

Assessing the Overtaking Manoeuvre

  1. Is it Safe, Necessary, and Legal?
    • Safety: Ensure the road ahead is clear, and you have enough visibility and space to complete the manoeuvre without risk.
    • Necessity: Overtake only if the slower vehicle is impeding your progress and it’s sensible to pass.
    • Legality: Check for road markings or signs that may prohibit overtaking, and ensure youโ€™re not in a no-overtake zone.

Preparing for the Overtake

  1. Positioning

    • Position your vehicle close enough to overtake effectively but not so close that your view of the road ahead is compromised. Maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle you intend to overtake.
  2. Gear Selection

    • If necessary, change down to a lower gear for better acceleration, especially important in manual vehicles to provide adequate power for the manoeuvre.

Executing the Overtake

  1. Checking Mirrors

    • Check your rear-view and side mirrors to ensure there’s no traffic approaching from behind and that itโ€™s safe to begin the manoeuvre.
  2. Signalling

    • Signal your intention to overtake in good time, making other road users aware of your action.
  3. Overtaking

    • Once itโ€™s safe, move out to the opposite lane to overtake the vehicle. Do this briskly but safely.
    • Ensure you do not exceed the speed limit while overtaking. Speeding to overtake can be dangerous and is against the law.

Completing the Manoeuvre

  1. Returning to Lane

    • After overtaking, check your mirrors before pulling back to the left.
    • Ensure you can see the overtaken vehicle in your centre interior mirror and in your left mirror. This helps gauge a safe distance before returning to your lane.
  2. Avoid Cutting In Too Soon

    • Do not cut back into your lane too soon. Ensure thereโ€™s a safe gap between you and the vehicle youโ€™ve overtaken.


Overtaking, when done correctly, can be a smooth and safe manoeuvre. Itโ€™s crucial, however, to adhere to the MSPSL routine and remain mindful of your surroundings, road conditions, and the behaviour of other road users. Remember, overtaking should not be a rushed or impulsive decision; it requires careful judgment and precision. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your overtaking manoeuvres are not only successful but also conform to the highest standards of road safety. Thank you for reading this and best of luck whilst you attempt a safe overtake with your driving instructor.

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