During driving lessons you often hear about overtaking but what is undertaking? Most driving instructors don't really tell you about that and some new drivers may not be very aware of it.
What is undertaking?
Simply put undertaking is when you overtake on the inside lane. When you overtake a slower vehicle on the road using a lane that is kerb side to the vehicle you are passing. In the UK this would be a lane to the right of the vehicle being passed. So basically this happens usually on roads where there is more than one lane in the same direction, such as motorways. The Highway Code (268) states that you should not overtake on the left or move to a lane on your left to overtake. Where traffic is congested and everyone is moving at similar speeds you may be able to undertake to keep up with traffic in your lane even though it means you pass vehicles in the lane to your right. However, you shouldn't weave in and out of the lanes to get ahead. The Code strongly advises that you avoid overtaking generally and you can get into trouble if you decide to move across three lanes. It is possible that the police could charge you with ‘dangerous driving’, or ‘driving without due care and attention’. This could land you with points on your licence or a fine. If you're driving in urban areas according to Section 163 of the Highway Code you can overtake on the left, especially if the car in front is turning right or going into a right hand filter lane.
Is it illegal?
Well, the Highway Code uses the words 'must' and 'must not' to refer to legal requirements and section 268 does not use these words. In fact, it states 'do not' so technically it is not illegal to undertake. The wording in the Highway Code is advisory and discourages undertaking. Section 163 warns drivers that in itself undertaking is not a prosecutable offence, but if done as part of dangerous or careless driving the manoeuvre could be used as evidence to prosecute the driver. Be careful travelling abroad as some countries regard undertaking as a driving offence but there are some distinctions made for passing heavy traffic compared to wilful speeding ahead.