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Is undertaking actually illegal or just advised against in the Highway Code?

In recent advice you said it was not illegal to 'undertake'. I'm afraid your advice was very wrong, although you were technically correct to say 'there is no law against it'. This is because the way the road is to be used is laid down in The Highway Code. Rule 163, dealing with overtaking on normal roads, and rule 268 dealing with overtaking on motorways, specifically state that you are not to overtake on the left.

True, The Highway Code is not law, but if an accident is caused, or risk of an accident is caused, by a driver disobeying the code, then that is prime facie evidence of careless or dangerous driving. This is different when, as the authorities describe it, cars are 'driving in lanes'. This is quite an advanced concept, but basically means that in congested traffic when you are following the vehicles in front, if the outer lane is going slower, you can continue to follow the vehicles in front and thereby 'undertake'.

None of these rules allow you to do what the motorist who wrote in asked, and that is undertake, even though the other vehicle was three lanes away. I would like to think however, that if seen by the police, common sense would prevail and if anybody got ticketed, it would be the vehicle in the outside lane who, by not keeping left unless overtaking (also clearly laid down in the code), is effectively causing an unnecessary obstruction to other road-users, a careless driving offence.

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In many circumstances, such as the one described in the email, it would be completely ridiculous as well as dangerous to move from lane 1 to lane 5 to overtake some idiot in lane 4. Assuming you are doing 70mph or less it would be equally ridiculous and dangerous to slam your brakes on so you did not pass traffic to your right that slowed down.

The only manoeuvre that stands a chance of a conviction for 'dangerous driving' is deliberately weaving in and out of traffic. This isn't actually dangerous either if done at speed. But it does depend on other drivers not falling asleep and on no idiots deliberately taking some kind of stupid retribution against you. Have you ever watched a Touring Car race? No, I didn't think you had. But Hong Kong, where you live, has the most aggressive and bad tempered taxi drivers I have ever witnessed.
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