Passing lanes make motorists safer

Passing lanes

Passing lanes make motorists safer with many speeding up to 125km/h to safely pass, yet police continue to set up speed traps in these safe sections of road.

Austroads has published a report that found passing lanes have many safety benefits, including perceived safety by motorists, safer operational conditions, and historical crash reductions.

That’s despite the fact that their research shows 85% of motorists break the speed limit to pass vehicles.

So why the speed traps in these lanes? Probably because police know they can “nab” a good quota of speeders.

Such a disingenuous practice penalises motorists who are actually being safe.

It’s not that motorists are speeding through these sections so they can continue to speed and represent a danger on the road.Passing lanes

In fact, the research shows the zones before and after overtaking lanes are made safer by the presence of these lanes.

Crash rates around passing lanes:

  • 18.9% reduction in injury crashes in the passing lane;
  • 10.% reduction 5km after the lane; and
  • 17.6% reduction up to 2km before;

The last figure may be due to the presence of signage advising a passing lane is ahead.

In Australia, these signs are placed 3km before the overtaking lane, while in New Zealand they are 2km ahead.

Passing lane woes

We would also like to see trucks and vehicles towing trailers and caravans prevented from overtaking in these lanes unless there are no following vehicles.

Problems arise when trucks take the entire length of a passing lane to overtake another truck.

That can leave a trail of frustrated and annoyed motorists unable to pass the first truck which could lead to dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.

It’s not just trucks that cause problems, but motorists who try to pass but stay within the speed limit.

Passing lanes
Slow vehicle overtaking

That’s because they are concerned police will have a speed trap in the lane.

If there were a requirement for vehicles in the “slow lane” to reduce their speed by 10km/h or an allowance for overtaking motorists to momentarily speed — as is already happening by 85% of users — more vehicles could pass.

That would lead to reduced risk-taking and road rage.

There have also been incidents of motorists purposely using the passing lane to block other motorists, including these two riders in 2017 on the Bruce Highway, Queensland.

Riders blocking vehicles from passing
Riders block vehicles from passing

There are fines for this sort of behaviour. In Queensland, motorists can cop a $76 fine and two demerit points for driving in the right lane without overtaking in areas with 90km/h or higher speed limits, including passing lanes.

Click here for more tips on the correct procedure for motorcycles to overtake.

7 Comments

  1. A higher speed limit for overtaking makes sense, particularly in a passing lane, but also generally. Who wants to be on the wrong side of the road any longer than necessary?

    As for passing lanes, here’s some advice to motorists:
    When approaching an overtaking lane keep up with slow vehicles to minimise the time you need to pass, and allow more cars to get through. All too often I see cars spread out behind a slow truck so that when they reach the overtaking lane it takes each car much longer to pass the slow vehicle, reducing the number of cars that can do so. Many drivers seem to think that as long as they get past that’s all that matters. Selfish, not courteous, and likely to add to the frustration on the roads. For maximum efficiency, you should time your acceleration so that you have reached overtaking speed just as you pull out to pass.

  2. Amen of course then you always get the “slow” vehicle holding up a line of traffic doing below the speed limit who suddenly wants to do 120 when they hit the obertaking lane.

  3. Yes, and there needs to be more education in Queensland about what overtaking lanes are for. Almost invariably when I see a vehicle travelling in the overtaking lane while not overtaking, it has Qld registration. I think part of the problem is the signage in Qld i.e. “Slow vehicles keep left”. It seems the majority of Australian drivers consider it an “insult” to be labelled “slow”, so they just stay in the overtaking lane. “Keep left unless overtaking” is much more appropriate.

    I don’t think banning heavy vehicles from overtaking when there are vehicles behind is sensible. These vehicles don’t get much of an opportunity to pass and need a lot of room, particularly when fitted with speed limiters; it’s very difficult overtaking someone doing 90 when speed-limited to 100 KPH. Bus and truck drivers are probably more under pressure to keep to a schedule than the vast majority of light vehicles. The donkeys towing caravans at 80 KPH in the overtaking lane certainly need educating or fining; in fact there should be a driver licence endorsement for towing, as so many people towing appear to have no idea when the towed vehicle is partly on the wrong side of the centre-line.

    1. Greame I would go back to poor road design in this case. The left lane should always be there and when an overtaking lane starts it should be a new lane. So tracks and those towing just stay in their lane and at the end of the overtaking lane the left lane is NOT terminated forcing that traffic to indicate and merge with the lane to the right. This is how overtaking lanes work all through Europe, its not rocket science. Slow speed lanes there are never terminated its the overtaking lane that is removed and they have to merge with the low speed. We already have road rules in QLD that allow this we just need the road designers to get a brain. That would also allow slow speed traffic to stay in their lane on all of the southeasts motorways instead off having to constantly change lanes as its the slow lane that is always terminated into the Armco, guess that’s why nobody wants to drive in the left hand lane.

  4. The problem I have found here in Queensland is that there are many driver out there that are happily driving around at between 10-20 Klms below the speed limit , until they get to the multi lane or over take lane , then they speed up to 10-20 Klms over the limit . Which means if you are not willing to speed by a large amount ,or over take in the single lane then you get stuck behind them indefinitely. I think these drives , when discovered should receive major fines as they not only create a frustrating and potential road rage condition , but the perpetuate it as long as they can

    1. Not just Queensland. That scenario is everywhere. The dickheads who do this are driving on autopilot, not paying actual attention. Their peripheral vision tells them the road is wider, therefore safer, therefore ok to speed up. The reverse happens when the double lane runs out. I noticed this back in the 1970s, but it’s way worse now.

      1. Ditto.
        However I think the instance of truck overtaking truck in the 70’s was worse, they were way underpowered back then and I can often recall a truck taking all the overtaking lane to crawl past ( Hume Hwy ).

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