Do you keep left unless overtaking?

By Berty Nghiem on 05 April 2017
Keep left unless overtaking sign
The ‘Keep Left Unless Overtaking’ rule remains one of the most misunderstood road rules for motorists across Australia. 

The NSW Road Rules state that on multi-lane roads with a speed limit of more than 80km/h, motorists must not drive in the right-hand lane unless they are: 

  • overtaking 
  • turning right or making a U-turn 
  • avoiding an obstacle 
  • driving in congested traffic 
  • driving in a special purpose lane or if there is a Left Lane Must Turn Left sign or a left traffic arrow and the driver is not turning left
  • or otherwise instructed by road signs.

If a Keep Left Unless Overtaking sign is displayed, the requirement applies regardless of the speed limit.

If you’ve driven on any Sydney highway or freeway in New South Wales you’ll know this rule isn’t always followed. Overtaking manoeuvres involve risk and require extreme care. If you have any doubts it is best not to overtake and to wait until it is safer.

When overtaking drivers must:

  • Not go over the speed limit
  • Signal with indicator long enough to give sufficient warning to others 
  • Check mirrors
  • Give way to traffic in the lane you are moving in to
  • Overtake on the right unless a vehicle is waiting to turn right, is stationary, or if you and the other vehicle are travelling in marked lanes. In these instances you may overtake on the left side if it is safe
  • Not overtake or pass other vehicles on pedestrian or school crossings
  • Keep within their lane.

Drivers not overtaking should keep left and allow reasonable space for the overtaking vehicle to pass and move back into the lane.

Penalty for not keeping left

In New South Wales as of 1 December 2016, you can be fined up to $325 and receive a two demerit point penalty for this offence.

When being overtaken drivers must:

  • Not increase their speed
  • Keep left and allow reasonable space for the overtaking vehicle to pass and move back into the lane
  • Keep within their lane.

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