Overtaking - Maneuvers on Highways
Overtaking is one of the most risky Maneuvers on Highways. The practice of overtaking maneuvers is to visualize in advance every detail of what might happen during the operation. Motorists and road safety authorities commonly see inappropriate driver behavior as the major contributing factor to road crashes.
The road safety system essentially comprises vehicle, road infrastructure and road user which influence each other in their actions (Wadhwa, 1999). The combinations of these three elements make driving a motor vehicle is a complex task. Driver's error contributes to over 75 percent of road crashes especially in overtaking maneuvers (Lamm et. al, 1999). These errors include lack of driver attention, poor observation skills, excessive speed, incorrect evasive action and failing to obey the road rules.
The specific behaviors which may lead to driver errors also include tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, improper passing (eg. cutting in too close in front of vehicle being overtaken), passing on the road shoulder, improper lane changes (failure to signal), failure to yield the right of way to other road users, preventing other drivers from passing, unwillingness to extend cooperation to motorists unable to merge or change lanes due to traffic conditions, driving at speeds far in excess of the norm which results in frequent tailgating, frequent and abrupt lane changes, running stop signs and running red lights.
Drivers are more likely to engage in these behaviors if they are relatively
young, male, in traffic situations which confer anonymity and/or where escape is highly likely, generally disposed to sensation-seeking or aggressiveness in other social situations, angry (possibly due to events unrelated to traffic situation), believe they possess superior driving skills and obstructed by unexpected traffic congestion.
In contrast, (Stamatiadis 1994) suggested that older drivers are more often involved in accidents at intersections and are more frequently cited as being at fault. Furthermore, some researchers conclude that older driver behavior can be characterized as ambiguous (Schlag, 1991). According to these authors, older drivers maintain greater distances from the cars ahead than younger drivers, less careful when reducing their speed in the proximity of an intersection or when changing traffic lanes, tend to overestimate their driving abilities and the notion that aging characteristics affect their driving performance. On the other hand, older drivers seem to have great difficulty driving on high-speed roads such as motorways and also exhibit high perception-reaction times during some driving maneuvers such as overtaking (Schlag, 1991). According to Cerreli (1989), Benekohal, et. al (1994), and Ranney and Pulling (1990), older driver accident rates are higher than those of younger drivers. Further, older drivers seem to be more injury prone when involved in accidents because they present higher injury and fatality rates.
Wigmore and Alley (2001) had stated that road deaths involving overtaking have been rapidly increasing in New Zealand with 31, 42 and 45 deaths for the 12 months to January 1997, 1998 and 1999 respectively (a 45% increase over the 3 years). Hegeman (2004) revealed that between 1995 and 2000, about 26 (2.6% of the total fatalities) traffic participants die yearly in the Netherlands because of overtaking failures and in the UK, 7.9% of fatal accidents is caused by overtaking.
Common sense dictates that less time spent on the wrong side of the road during the overtaking maneuver, lesser the chances of an accident. Minimizing exposure to danger is one of the first rules of overtaking. It is common for the driver to maximize acceleration by using the best gear to conclude the overtaking maneuver in the shortest time. Taking that gear in advance helps avert the unwise and risky course of changing during the overtaking.