Drivers entering, exiting, or changing lanes on busy thoroughfares 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, travelers should drive defensively and take precautions to prevent collisions when merging. Here's how:
- Yield to drivers on the freeway, but avoid stopping unless absolutely necessary.
- Adjust your speed to match the flow of traffic before entering the roadway.
- Find a three- to four-second gap in traffic to merge into. 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. "Your mirrors will only show you where you aim them to look," Solomon says. "You must do a head check."
- Signal your intentions early—Solomon recommends 100 to 300 feet before merging or changing lanes.
- Wait for the solid line to end before merging.
- Cross one lane of traffic at a time.
- 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.
- 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.
Some vehicle technology can help make merging safer and less stressful. For example, forward collision warnings and blind spot detection alert drivers of impending collisions.
One technology currently being tested even allows vehicles to communicate by sending and receiving warnings about potential dangers. Just remember: These features are not a substitute for safe, defensive driving.
The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm®. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under our policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.