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"In case of doubt, never overtake": GDR stamp from 1969 on road safety

As overtaking (also overtaking , overhaul is known) the passing of a slower or sustained traffic agent (of the overtaken) by a faster.

In the street

In road traffic , an overtaking process takes place when two vehicles are traveling on the same lane at different speeds in the same direction and the faster vehicle moves past the slower vehicle. It does not matter whether the two vehicles are on the same lane or not. The intention is also irrelevant (overtaking by slowing down the vehicle in front).

In contrast to this, driving past refers to the passing of a vehicle that is stopping or parked (not caused by traffic) . Or when the vehicles are on different lanes .

When driving on the left, overtaking is generally - not generally - on the right, in driving on the right - not generally - on the left.

Requirements for overtaking are:
a) for the person overtaking:

  • enough side clearance to the overtaken
  • significantly higher speed than the overtaken vehicle (see also elephant races for trucks).
  • sufficient view of oncoming traffic
  • no obstruction or danger to oncoming traffic
  • no obstruction of the overtaken
  • no endangerment of the following traffic when pulling out
  • no danger from the condition of the road
  • no overtaking ban (in general or for the corresponding vehicle group)

b) for the overtaken:

  • no speed increase (except for the tram )
  • Ride as far right
  • no obstruction of the overtaking person

Incorrect overtaking is one of the main causes of accidents, especially outside built-up areas.


VZ 276 - Prohibits drivers of all types of motor vehicles from overtaking multi-lane motor vehicles and motorcycles with sidecars. (Germany)
VZ 277 (prohibition of overtaking for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 3.5 t, including their trailers, and of tractors, with the exception of passenger cars and buses) in Germany
VZ 277.1 (ban on overtaking single-lane vehicles for multi-lane vehicles and motorcycles with sidecars) in Germany

Legally, driving past a vehicle that is waiting due to traffic (e.g. at a red light ) counts as overtaking.

Overtaking is prohibited at a pedestrian crossing . ( § 26 Abs. 3 StVO)

If you are overtaken, you must not increase your speed. ( § 5 Abs. 6 StVO)

Anyone who drives a motor vehicle with a special speed limit and a train that is longer than 7 m must keep a sufficient distance from the vehicle in front outside built-up areas so that an overtaking vehicle can cut in. This does not apply if the vehicle veers to overtake and this has been announced, if there is more than one lane in the direction of travel or on routes on which overtaking is prohibited. ( § 4 Abs. 2 StVO)

In the Federal Republic of Germany, § 5 StVO regulates overtaking.

In Germany you can only overtake on the left , exceptionally on the right in the following cases:

  • in heavy traffic with queues on the lane in one direction ( Section 7 (2) of the StVO)
  • if there is a queue in the left lane or moving at slow speed, vehicles may overtake it on the right at a slightly higher speed and with extreme caution. ( § 7 Abs. 2a StVO).
  • within built-up areas for cars and trucks to 3.5 t gross vehicle weight and motorcycles at least two labeled lanes for the direction of travel
  • in areas where traffic is regulated by traffic lights
  • Left-turners who have positioned themselves in the middle of the lane must be overtaken on the right.
  • On motorways and motorways , turning vehicles are allowed to overtake the vehicles on the continuous lane if the outgoing lanes are separated by a wide guideline ( Section 7a (1) of the StVO), but on diversion lanes (previously deceleration lanes), i.e. if there is not yet a wide guideline delimiting the continuous lane , must not be overtaken on the right. If the traffic stops or stands still in the continuous lane, you may overtake on the diversion lane at moderate speed and with particular caution. ( § 7a Abs. 3 StVO)
  • to overtake a tram, except in one-way streets or when the rails are on the far right.

According to Section 20 of the StVO, overtaking is prohibited if regular buses and marked school buses approach a stop and have switched on the hazard warning lights . If the bus then stops with a hazard warning light, it is only allowed to drive past at walking pace and only at such a distance that there is no danger to passengers. The walking speed also applies to oncoming traffic on the same lane. The passengers must also not be hindered. If necessary, those who drive a vehicle have to wait.

If, for example, the overtaking process of a truck in an "elephant race" with a differential speed of less than 10 km / h on a two-lane motorway takes more than 45 seconds, this is an illegal traffic maneuver ( Section 5 (2) sentence 2, Section 49 ( 2)) . 1 No. 5 StVO) if this inappropriately impedes the flow of traffic.

Trucks are not allowed to overtake in construction sites on motorways.

Overtaking maneuvers for tractors with large trailers or clumsy combinations are also controversial. When turning fields on country roads, these can block the entire lane for a longer period of time. Especially in the dark or in fog, unlit or poorly lit trailers are difficult to see and require special attention from drivers.


In Austria, overtaking is regulated in § 15 (general regulations) and § 16 (overtaking bans) of the Austrian Road Traffic Regulations.

Overtaking on the right is allowed in the following situations:

  • Left-turners who have positioned themselves in the middle of the lane may also be overtaken on the right
  • Trams, if the distance between the tracks and the edge of the road is structurally large enough that it is possible to overtake on the right
  • Road service vehicles if they cannot be overtaken on the left


In contrast to Germany, overtaking to the right on multi-lane roads in built-up areas, similar to motorways , is also prohibited if the individual routes do not lead in different directions.

Up until now, the rule in Switzerland was that overtaking on the right is prohibited, while driving past a packed column on the right is permitted. Since the limit of when a column can write is controversial, there is legal uncertainty with far-reaching consequences: If you are not allowed to drive past on the right, you will lose your driver's license. For this reason, the National Council and the Council of States decided in 2018, on a recommendation by the Federal Council , to generally allow right-hand driving on motorways. This should also increase the flow of traffic, since slower vehicles in the overtaking lane no longer slow down the traffic. After both councils have given their approval, the Federal Council will work out a corresponding proposal. Switzerland will therefore be one of the countries in Europe where right-handers are expressly permitted.

Calculation of the overtaking distance at constant driving speed

  • = Total length of both vehicles + both safety distances (m)
  • = Speed ​​of the overtaking man (km / h)
  • = Speed ​​difference between the two vehicles (km / h)

Sample calculation:

A car (5 m long, 90 km / h fast) wants to overtake a truck (18 m long, 60 km / h fast) on a country road.

  • = 5.0 m (length of the car) + 18.0 m (length of the truck) + 45 m safety distance between the car and the truck before pulling out + 50 m safety distance from the truck after overtaking = 118 m (the safety distance refers to the following traffic, trucks with a speed of over 50 km / h must keep at least 50 meters safety distance.)
  • = 90 km / h
  • = 30 km / h

That results in 118 m 90 km / h: 30 km / h = 354 m pure overtaking distance.

In the case of an oncoming vehicle moving at the same speed as the overtaking man, this overtaking distance must be doubled. This results in a safe distance to the point where an oncoming vehicle is currently driving or may appear (from a curve or behind a hill) 708 m. (If, for example, 100 km / h is allowed there in the opposite direction, the oncoming vehicle can travel at this speed; this results in 354 + 393 = 747 m; a little more is to be provided in the event that the oncoming vehicle is too fast moves.)

Overtaking rate

When traffic planning or determining the performance of a street Überholrate plays an essential role. It describes the sum of all overtaking maneuvers related to a time span and the length of a route section. The unit is U / (h * km). If the road situation allows only a few overtaking maneuvers, the overtaking rate has a correspondingly low value.

Soft shoulders

On roads widespread in North America with so-called soft shoulders , i.e. lane-wide gravel banks next to the asphalt (two-way) lane, such as on the Alaska Highway , in some states or provinces it is compulsory or at least good custom that the slower driving ahead Faster ones coming from behind evade the shoulder if it can be assumed that the faster one wants to overtake. The overtaking person can use the lane with the better road surface, while the overtaken person slows down due to the braking effect of the ballast, which means that the overtaking process takes place very quickly. Then the one overtaken joins the asphalt strip to the left.

On the rails

Overhaul of a freight train by an ICE at Empel-Rees station

Similarly, overhauls occur in the operation of railways . For this purpose, the slower train can, but does not have to, stop; At Deutsche Bahn, for example, slow trains interrupt their travel in a station to let faster trains pass, which is then referred to as the slow train going into overhaul . An alternative to the costly downtime and, at the same time, a generalization is the track changing operation . If the overtaken train does not come to a standstill, one speaks of an on-the- fly overhaul, which also applies if it is traveling on another, parallel route. In contrast to road traffic, in the case of a flying overhaul, the overtaken train usually switches to the opposite track or the other route so that the overtaking train does not have to reduce its speed to change tracks.

There is no need to overtake if there are two parallel (double-track) routes on each of which a different maximum speed applies. Usually the S-Bahn traffic with its many stops is separated from the rest of the traffic or the slower freight traffic is separated from passenger traffic . Such a segregation of faster and slower trains is desirable, but is only worthwhile on routes with a high volume of traffic. It is also not always possible, for example in narrow river valleys and inner city areas.

At sea

The Europa III at the start of an overtaking maneuver on the Outer Weser

At sea, the right of way according to the collision prevention rules defines vehicles as overtaking vehicles that are approaching a vehicle in front at an angle of more than 22.5 ° (2 lines ) more aft than abeam . Overtaking people are obliged to give way.

In the air

In air traffic, an aircraft that is overtaking - ie approaching another aircraft at an angle of less than 70 ° - must avoid the flight path of the person being overtaken and change its course to the right ( Section 13 (3 ) of the Aviation Regulations ).

See also

Web links

Commons : overtaking process  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. StVO (amended in 2009) previously § 42a Paragraph 6 StVO old version
  2. OLG Hamm, Az. 4 Ss Owi 629/08.
  3. Overtaking: tractors. Retrieved August 29, 2019 .
  4. Popular concern comes through - it is possible to drive past on the autobahn . In: Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) . ( srf.ch [accessed on June 13, 2018]).