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Can I undertake in the UK?

Image of a car undertaking on a UK motorway

Undertaking, the practice of passing another vehicle on the inside lane, is a topic that often sparks debate regarding its legality and safety. In the UK, where road regulations are rigorously enforced, having a clear understanding of the rules surrounding undertaking is essential for ensuring safe and lawful driving practices. This article seeks to delve into the nuances of undertaking, shedding light on its legality, permissible scenarios, and the potential repercussions if one is caught.

The Legality of Undertaking:

Navigating the legal landscape of undertaking in the UK isn’t a straightforward endeavor. As per the Highway Code, undertaking is generally discouraged and can be deemed illegal in most instances. However, there exist exceptions where undertaking is deemed permissible under specific circumstances.

When is Undertaking Acceptable?

Understanding the permissible scenarios for undertaking is crucial for motorists and cyclists alike. The Highway Code delineates situations where undertaking may be acceptable, such as when traffic is at a standstill or moving sluggishly in queues. Additionally, undertaking is deemed permissible if the vehicle being overtaken is positioned on the right and is either turning right or awaiting a right turn. Furthermore, undertaking may be warranted if a vehicle is in a lane designated for slower-moving traffic, and the adjacent lane is flowing at a faster pace.

Navigating Undertaking as a Cyclist:

Cyclists also need to grasp the regulations pertaining to undertaking. While cyclists may filter through traffic under certain circumstances, they must exercise caution and adhere to the same rules as motorists. Cyclists should refrain from undertaking in hazardous situations, such as near junctions or on blind bends, and prioritize safety above all else.

Consequences of Undertaking:

It’s imperative for all road users to recognize that if apprehended for undertaking, law enforcement authorities may construe it as “careless driving.” This could result in the imposition of penalty points ranging from 3 to 11 on one’s driving license, in addition to a monetary fine. Hence, whether behind the wheel of a vehicle or cycling, it’s paramount to assess the risks associated with undertaking and prioritise safety accordingly.

Emphasising Safety Above All:

While undertaking may be permissible under specific circumstances, safety should invariably take precedence for all road users. Undertaking can pose significant risks if executed recklessly or inappropriately. Therefore, drivers and cyclists alike must exercise vigilance and undertake only when absolutely necessary and safe to do so.


In summary, undertaking is generally discouraged and may be deemed illegal in the UK, barring specific situations outlined by the Highway Code. Nonetheless, irrespective of its legality, the potential repercussions of engaging in undertaking underscore the importance of prioritizing safety on the roads. A comprehensive understanding of road regulations coupled with prudent decision-making can foster a culture of safe and lawful driving and cycling practices for all traversing the UK’s thoroughfares.

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Image of a car undertaking on a UK motorway

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