The dos and donts of overtaking

A climbing lane (such as this one on Masaka Road) has three lanes; two for outgoing motorists and one for oncoming vehicles. Photo/Roland D. Nasasira

What you need to know:

Keep local speed limits in mind when you are considering trying to get ahead or catching up with the car in front of you

While recently launching the use of mobile money transactions to top up points on motorists’ cards to access the Entebbe expressway, Allen Kagina, the executive director of Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra),  noted that driving on the right hand side when not overtaking is a key error that leads to a number of accidents on the expressway.

Her remarks followed two accidents on the expressway where a number of people sustained injuries. Kagina also warned motorists to avoid keeping on the right when not overtaking.  

Beyond just the expressway whose prescribed maximum driving speed is 100km/hr and 80km/hr, for other highways, when you drive on the right hand side on any road, by the time you indicate or remember to switch to the extreme left lane, another motorist has gained speed and wants to wrongfully overtake from the left. This is because you are driving in the lane in which they are supposed to be overtaking.

“The result would be a collision. Even when you think you are driving fast, do not stay in the right lane. There could be other motorists driving faster than you are. It is not only a road safety issue but also indiscipline,” says Allan Ssempebwa Kyobe, the Unra media relations manager.

From the right

Faridah Nampiima, the spokesperson of the traffic directorate, says when overtaking, make sure there is no vehicle from the oncoming lane. You are only allowed to overtake from the right. Once caught, overtaking from the left will earn you a penalty express ticket worth Shs100,000.  

“It has to be at a point where you can clearly view the road ahead but not in a corner where your sight is compromised. Use your side and driving mirrors to view the rear and ensure that you have no intention of overtaking at the same time as the motorist driving behind you,” Nampiima advises.

Apart from making sure the road space ahead is clear, successful overtaking also depends on the mechanical condition and engine power of your car. Sula Kilimani, a mechanic, says the car has to be in the best mechanical condition to pick up speed swiftly.

“Some cars pick up speed the instant the driver steps on the accelerator while others take time. If yours takes time, be patient until you reach a point where you can overtake without dragging in the process. Avoid situations where you are caught in between the vehicle you are overtaking and one in the oncoming lane,” Kilimani says.

If you are being overtaken, do not be selfish by increasing speed to compete with the one overtaking. Slow down and give the faster vehicle space to overtake and rejoin their initial lane. Sometimes, accidents occur because you want to compete for the available road space. 

Driving in urban areas

Under the new traffic regulations in the second United Nations Decade of action for road safety, to which Uganda is signatory, the maximum driving speed in urban areas such as Archer Road, the turn from Jinja Road Police Station that takes you to Kololo is 30km/hr. The road has marked bicycle lanes on either side that must be kept free of any vehicles or motorcycles. Unfortunately, the cyclist lanes are not protected from the vehicle lane which leaves cyclists at the mercy of motorists.

Overtaking on climbing lanes

Climbing lanes normally have three lanes; two for outgoing and one for oncoming traffic. Just like Entebbe expressway, when overtaking on a climbing lane, for instance those on Masaka Road, if you are driving from Kampala to Masaka, when you approach a climbing lane, you are required to be in the extreme left lane and leave the middle lane free for overtaking motorists driving uphill. Vehicles from the oncoming lane are meant to use one lane to avoid head-on collisions with motorists overtaking in the middle lane.

Motorcyclists and cyclists

The Uganda Traffic and Road Safety Act 2020 categorises motorcycles and bicycles as vehicles since they do not have gazetted lanes yet. This means they are required to use the same lanes as vehicles.

“Do not hoot at a cyclist in a vehicle lane because they have nowhere to ride from.  By hooting, you are pushing them into drainages where they may sustain injuries,” Nampiima advises.


Be mindful of road markings and signs. Double solid lines, double solid yellow lines, and solid yellow lines mean overtaking the car ahead is out of the question. Solid white lines discourage you from overtaking unless it is absolutely clear, while broken white lines mean it is safe. A sign featuring two cars side-by-side with a giant red cross over it means overtaking is a no-go, too.

Be aware of the other vehicle’s blind spots. Be careful around larger and taller vehicles such as trucks or oversized pickups. Exercise extra caution when trying to get ahead of them, as their blind spots will be significantly larger than that of an average car.

Mind your surroundings. Do not perform overtakes around construction sites or tight streets with poor roadside visibility.