Overtaking and meetings on country roads



Overtaking can be associated with increased risks, especially at the high speeds that are common on country roads. Always avoid unnecessary, impulsive or opportunist overtakes – overtaking requires planning and forethought – and keep the basic rule for overtaking in the back of your head:

"A driver may only overtake if it is safe to do so." –Trafikförordningen 2 kap, 32 §.

The picture shows a situation where overtaking is prohibited and would be potentially very dangerous

Ask yourself the following before overtaking:

If you have any doubts about the overtaking manoeuvre you must refrain from overtaking and wait for a safer opportunity.

Large vehicles

Before overtaking a heavy truck, or other large vehicle, you need to keep in mind that:

Overtaking a truck can take longer than you first thought, especially on downhill slopes

Heavy trucks must be equipped with yellow rectangular reflective signs with diagonal red fields.

Trailers exceeding 3.5 tons total weight must be equipped with yellow rectangular reflective signs with red frames.

Such signs mean that the vehicle or vehicle combination is large and long, which is something that you have to take into account if you are going to overtake it.

Heavy truck

Trailer exceeding 3.5 tons total weight

Overtaking prohibitions

It is always prohibited to overtake:

* Exception: Overtaking at low speed is allowed at an unsupervised pedestrian crossing, cycle passage or cycle crossing if there is more than one lane in your direction and one of the following requirements is met:

Passing on the right side

On roads where there are at least two marked lanes in the same direction and the speed limit is 70 km/h or lower you are allowed to pass vehicles on the right side.

It is also allowed to pass vehicles on the right side:

When there are several lanes in the same direction and dense queuing you may pass vehicles on the right side

Flying and accelerating overtaking

There are two general overtaking techniques: flying overtaking and accelerating overtaking.

A flying overtake is when you approach and overtake a slower vehicle in front of you at a significantly higher speed than it is travelling at. An accelerating overtake occurs when you drive behind another vehicle and, once there is a sufficient gap in oncoming traffic, accelerate and overtake it.

Flying overtakes are considered safer than accelerating overtakes in most situations, regardless of what type of vehicle you are overtaking. Flying overtakes are faster and give you better visibility ahead and more opportunity to abort the overtake if needed.

Accelerating overtakes require longer overtaking distances than flying ones

From an environmental point of view, flying overtakes are also better than accelerating ones, as they do not require as much throttle.

Aborting an overtake

If you initiate an overtaking manoeuvre that turns out to be dangerous or prohibited to complete, you must abort the manoeuvre in time.

You can never count on the driver of the vehicle you are overtaking to slow down and keep to the right in such a manner that you can easily to return to your lane whenever you like.

If you abort an overtake too late the driver of the vehicle you are overtaking might brake at the same time as you, unintentionally preventing you from returning safely to your lane.

Abort dangerous overtaking manoeuvres in time

A common misjudgement drivers make is to overestimate the amount of time they have to complete an overtake. Meetings with oncoming vehicles usually come much earlier than we think they will.

You can never count on the driver of an oncoming vehicle to register that you are overtaking, or that he or she is able to drive out onto the hard shoulder to let you pass.

Cyclists and road maintenance vehicles

When overtaking cyclists and road maintenance vehicles, you need to maintain an appropriate speed and leave plenty of sideways clearance.

All cyclists – but especially elderly people and children on bicycles – may wobble or suddenly pull out to avoid something on the road. The risk of cyclists, moped and motorcycle riders wobbling increases when it is windy.

Read more about cyclists and moped riders.

Leave extra sideways clearance when overtaking elderly people and children on bicycles

You may overtake road maintenance vehicles on whichever side is most suitable. In other words, you are allowed to pass on both the left and right side.

Keep in mind that operators of road maintenance vehicles are very vulnerable as they cannot keep a constant watch on traffic. The same is obviously also true for road workers.


When overtaking a tractor, you must be aware of the fact that tractors can turn off the road – both to the right and left – almost anywhere. The tractor operator might be heading out onto a field or into a forest.

You must also assume that an operator driving a tractor with a loaded trailer has very poor rear visibility.

Just as with heavy trucks, there is also a risk that tractors increase their speed going downhill and that the tractor operator may not be able to keep to the right – or in the worst case, is forced to veer left – due to an obstacle further down the road, which you cannot see.

When overtaking a tractor with a trailer you have to assume that the operator's rear visibility is poor, and that you cannot really see what is happening in front of the tractor

When being overtaken

When being overtaken, you must do everything you can to make it easier for the overtaking driver. You do this by keeping to the right and maintaining or reducing your speed.

If there is a hard shoulder, it may be advisable to use it while being overtaken. However, you are not obligated to drive out onto the hard shoulder, as long as it is not required to make way for an emergency vehicle.

If the road is narrow, crooked or has a lot of oncoming traffic and you are driving a large vehicle, or are driving slowly, it is especially important that you reduce your speed and keep well to the right.

Keep to the right and maintain or reduce your speed when being overtaken

Do not fix your eyes on the vehicle that is overtaking you, as this might cause you to start driving diagonally or miss important things on the road ahead of you. Instead, look far ahead of the car.

Meeting oncoming vehicles

Usually, there is plenty of space on country roads, which makes meetings very simple. Just keep to the right to create sufficient sideways clearance. But in cases where the road is narrow, meetings can be more complicated and risky. When this is the case it is especially important to keep to the right and adapt your speed to the situation.

If there is a passing place on the road, you should use it when meeting oncoming traffic

If the road is narrow or if the view is obscured – for example, before sharp turns, curves and hilltops – you must position your car in such a way, and maintain such a speed, that you can handle a sudden meeting with both another vehicle and a pedestrian walking on the side of the road.

In darkness or when visibility is reduced or obscured it is very hard to detect obstacles and unprotected road users along the side of the road. For this reason, you must not keep too far to the right when meeting oncoming vehicles if you do not have a clear view of the road ahead.

Adapt your speed when meeting oncoming vehicles on narrow roads

An important rule to remember is that it if an obstacle on or next to the road makes it difficult, dangerous or impossible to proceed at the same time as another vehicle, and nothing else regulates the duty to give way, it is the driver with the obstacle on his or her side of the road that should stop and give way.

Keep in mind that pedestrians should walk on the left side (their left) of the road. This means that you must expect to meet pedestrians when driving on country roads. If a pedestrian, walking on your side of the road, makes it dangerous to proceed on a narrow road at the same time as another vehicle, you must stop and let the oncoming vehicle pass.