What Steps Can You Take to Prevent Merging Collisions?
Drivers who are entering, exiting, or changing lanes on busy roadways should never assume other motorists will make room for them to merge.
"Most people on the expressway never expect traffic to stop or alter its course, and they drive that way," says James Solomon, director of training for the National Safety Council Defensive Driving Courses.
For this reason, motorists should drive defensively and take precautions when passing vehicles to prevent merging collisions. And CDL drivers or drivers towing a trailer, remember the extra weight makes it harder to stop.
Here are 10 ways to create safer merging:
- Adjust your speed to match the flow of traffic before entering the roadway.
- Yield to drivers on the freeway, but avoid stopping unless absolutely necessary.
- Find a 3 to 4-second gap in traffic to merge. Solomon's advice: "I never look for the vehicle I want to get ahead of; I look for the vehicle I want to be behind."
- Check for cars around your vehicle before entering a lane. And remember to check your blind spot. Solomon’s advice: "Your mirrors will only show you where you aim them to look. You must do a head check."" Meaning, turn your head to check and see if the way is clear.
- Use your turn signals early, a recommended 100 to 300 feet before merging or changing lanes.
- Wait for the solid line to end before merging. A solid line indicates that lane changes are prohibited.
- Cross one lane of traffic at a time.
- Be prepared for your exit, and maneuver into the far-right lane as you approach it.
- In general, keep up with the speed of traffic until you exit. However, Solomon says it's important to adjust your speed to weather conditions and the design of the exit ramp.
- If you must pass a vehicle, pass on the left and return to your lane once the vehicle is visible in your rearview mirror. Increase this distance when passing larger vehicles. If you're driving a commercial vehicle, be sure to check your side mirrors and blind-spot mirrors as some commercial vehicles don't have a rearview mirror.
Changing lanes properly can greatly reduce the risk of crashes, fatalities, and injuries on the road. Driving safety also means becoming familiar with laws in your state, such as lane change restrictions at intersections, on bridges, and in no passing zones. Check with your state's Driver Licensing agency for additional information.