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I've got a question about how to drive the car in Europe on Highways. In the US, I can overtake another car on either side, and I am fine.

In Europe I was told that I have to drive on the right side (Germany), and to overtake on the left side of the other driver.

Now I had following situation, and I did not know how to handle this properly: I was driving along on the right lane, the Autobahn was 3 lanes wide on my side, and was going around 110 km/h. Someone overtook me, but he stayed on the middle lane, and suddenly got slower. He wasn't really in front of me, so I could not change to the left lane, but I was told I may not overtake on the right side.

Would I have to brake in such a situation, or should I just ignore it, and overtake him again on the right side?

(I overtook him, and he was on the phone, so I guess that was why he got distracted and slowed down that much).

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Hi Anton, welcome to travel.se. There is a related, if not duplicate question: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/711/… –  andra Feb 20 '13 at 12:49
I read through that, and it was a general description of what is different, but I have a good idea what is different. In my scenario the other driver behaved contrary to everything I knew he should, so I wondered what I should have done there. –  SinisterMJ Feb 20 '13 at 12:59
@AntonRoth One thing to note. Watch your rear view mirror because people behind you may signal you to move over if they are going much faster then you. (There is a funny story about a liver driver from the US with regards to that, but it's too long for comments). –  Karlson Feb 20 '13 at 13:40
Overtaking on the right is legal in the US?! –  gerrit Feb 20 '13 at 19:39
@Bernhard Hmm, I have, but only for a short stretch (maybe 5 km). I probably don't like 5-lane-per-direction highways either way. –  gerrit Feb 21 '13 at 8:29

1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

You are right about the overtaking rules. You can only overtake on the left side of the other driver. But, there is another rule, you should occupy the right-most lane (except in the UK of course, there it is the other way around).

There are a few exceptions

  1. When there is a traffic jam ahead, and traffic is going slower, you can (and should) overtake on the right side.
  2. On a multiple lane road with exits on the left, you may overtake a driver on the right, if he signalling to turn left.

In the specific situation you are referring to, it does depend on what is happening in front of you. In case of normal traffic, you were not allowed to overtake him, even though he was braking. Maybe the speed limit changed at that location, and was that the reason for braking?

Overtaking on the right is especially dangerous, as drivers in Europe do not expect this. Even tough someone is not obeying the 'keep right' rule (and is phoning). So, what you should have done, officially, is brake, change two lanes to the left, then overtake, and change two lanes back again. In practice, most Europeans would do what you did, and give the other driver the angry face (if he really had no reason to brake).

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I swear, the Autobahn was pretty much empty, and there was no speed limit. So thanks for the confirmation, I was like, thats a stupid situation... –  SinisterMJ Feb 20 '13 at 12:54
Mostly right, but be aware that both the exact regulations (e.g. when you are allowed to overtake on the right side) and the driving culture (how these regulations are lived up to in practice) are very different between European countries. –  Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Feb 20 '13 at 12:54
As far as I know, overtaking on right is not infraction if it's road with divided carriageways or one way carriageway; or the carriageway has at least three lanes in your direction. Also I do agree that it's not the safest way, but I wouldn't say that it's uncommon. –  vartec Feb 22 '13 at 15:40
@vartec it depends on the country. –  oefe Feb 24 '13 at 8:54
"I swear, the Autobahn was pretty much empty, and there was no speed limit." Note that it's quite hard to recognise speed limit changes on the autobahn; it's a well-known problem for folks new to the autobahn. But yeah, just "don't pass on the right" it's that simple. –  Joe Blow Nov 2 '14 at 11:48

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