Recommended procedure for lane changing is usually:
3) Shoulder Check
4) Lane Change & Check Mirror Again
Ok this all sounds very nice, but what else should you know? In my day-to-day observations I often see something like this:
2) Lane Change
What is wrong with this? How can drivers improve their lane changes? Lane changing is one of the most difficult things for new learner drivers to master. It seems even experienced drivers don’t find it easy, either. This is because in lane changing, we often have to multitask. We need space in front. We need space behind. But we also have to notice things like lights going yellow/red, pedestrians in crosswalks, and other drivers trying to lane changing into the same space. We also have to judge speeds. Your own speed, the speed of the vehicle in front and behind you. Those speeds often change due to circumstances.
Lane changing tips
1) Check your mirrors: if there is no space in front of you in which to move into, then there is no point in turning on your signal or doing a shoulder check. Find the space first. How do you know if you have enough space? I see a lot of drivers cutting off others when doing a lane change. This is dangerous because it leaves the vehicles no space (minimum 2 second rule) in case of sudden stops (red light, pedestrians, etc.) It is also seen as being rude and can trigger road rage.
A general guideline I use when teaching new drivers how to tell if they have enough space, is to look in their rear-view mirror. You need to be able to see the entire front of the vehicle behind you, including its tires touching the pavement, before you can even considering moving over in front of that vehicle. If you can see that much space in your mirror, then you have a generous and safe amount of space between the vehicles *as long as you are going the same speeds, that is a good guideline.* If you can NOT see the entire thing in your mirror or the tires – say you can see the windshield, but not the headlights – then don’t do it – You are too close. (I’m taking about driving at normal speeds. If you are stuck in a traffic jam and you are moving 2 km/hr, then you might have to lane change closer than this in the case where someone else is letting you in). This is especially important if the vehicle behind you is a large truck. If you lane change too close, and then suddenly stop, there is a good chance you’ll be rear-ended. Trucks can not – and will not – stop in the same space that you can. Think about motorcycles as well. They can – and will – stop in a much shorter distance than you, so leave extra room in front and behind at all times. It’s motorcycle season.
It should look something like this, you want to see the whole vehicle + his tires touching the pavement. This is about 3-4 car lengths usually. If you don’t believe me, park your car in front of another car and get out and look.
See AT LEAST this much space in the mirror (the entire car & tires touching pavement; more for a truck or larger vehicle) :
2) Signal: Many people seem to think that the only reason they need to signal is to avoid getting a traffic ticket and paying a fine. Think about it though. You may know where you’re going, but others around you probably have no idea. They’re not physic. This is fine as long as the roads aren’t too busy, or don’t have too many lanes. But if you don’t signal, and someone assumes you’re going straight because you don’t have a signal (and that is a logical assumption) then you can easily get into trouble.
You should signal at least a few seconds BEFORE you actually shoulder check and move your vehicle. This leaves some TIME going by that can warn other people that you are seriously thinking about moving your vehicle. If someone else has a problem with your intentions (such as a motorcycle or a car you did not notice riding in your blind spot) then there will be some TIME for him to either honk to alert you of his existence OR to move out of your way. If you simply signal at the exact same time as you move over (which I also see is happening quite a lot) then there will be no time for anyone to alert you of the danger, and essentially your turn signal was 100% useless.
Think about these two examples:
Say this little blue/green car is parked. He wants to enter the traffic. The red car in the left lane also wants to lane change around this time. If neither car has a signal, because he/she thinks there is no potential conflict from anyone else, then they could potentially have a crash. If they both signal their intentions BEFORE they move, even if one of them displays a signal, then the situation will be much safer.
Also, what about this problem? When you’re driving on a road that has multiple lanes (as in, more than 2 in your direction) then you really need to time it so that when you are planning your lane change, there is not a car in the same position on the road 2 lanes over, that may be thinking that it’s also a wonderful time for him to move over into the middle lane. In this case, signals may be useless. To be a defensive driver, you need to slow down or speed up or wait a bit longer until you aren’t in this precarious position. Never assume, “Oh, it’s fine.”
This is the way to go:
Heavy Traffic Situations
In cases when you’re in heavy traffic, you’ll have to signal first. People have no idea that you would like to lane change, unless you tell them. In this case, you can signal first and leave the signal on, drive along for a bit and see if the car next to you will widen the gap for you. This works best if you get your car into a strategic position of making it easy for the car next to you to help you. People are very nice about this, IF you ask nicely, and if you set it up nicely. Maybe a lot of people won’t go out of their way for you (and should they have to?); if you set it up properly, it should be easy for all. Make sure you’re in a position that he can see your signal. If you are right beside another car, there is no way the driver is going to see your signal:
Strategic Vehicle Positioning
Get your car Just a bit in front of the car so that he can see your signal – you want your turn signal light to be kind of flashing in front of his face. That is the most obvious way to get his attention.
In this case, the red car is saying to the purple car, “Excuse me, I would like to do a lane change sometime relatively soon, but I don’t have enough space. Could you please be so kind as to make the space in front of you a little bit bigger, by slightly easing off your gas pedal for a few moments?”
If you are the person driving the purple car, please ease off your gas and let the guy in! In take 2 seconds. I have taught people how to do lane changes in this manner regularly and with ease. People are usually very happy to help you. You must be going the exact same speeds, otherwise, it’s not going to work. Make sure you wait a few seconds after you put your signal on – until you can see the entire car in the mirror as mentioned – to make sure you aren’t cutting them off. Remember to keep your eyes moving to watch the traffic in front of you in case of red/yellow lights or sudden unexpected stops. If the car lets you in, say thanks with a wave. If he doesn’t, then you can not lane change. Try again with a different car. Legally, you must not lane change until it is safe. If you leave your lane and get into a crash, then it will be your fault. If 2 cars both leave their lane at the same time and have a crash, then the fault will be 50/50. Work together, people!
3) Shoulder Check. This should take less than 1 second and you should be moving your head only (not your whole body or shoulders). Most cars have a blind spot out the rear passenger window area on each side of the vehicle. If your car has the fancy new blind spot warning system, well then you may have a good argument against shoulder checking. Taking your eyes off the road for any period of time is considered dangerous. That’s why we must use the mirrors first, and then make the shoulder check very quick. Maybe you’re sure there’s nothing there, in the blind spot. But what if one day you are wrong? If it saves a life, is it worth it? Remember that we can not undo car crashes. If we’re going to stop them, we have to prevent them in the first place.
New driver issues
*New drivers often shoulder check and move into the new lane at the exact same time. Please be aware of this issue when learning and practice doing these steps one after the other, not all at the same time. You should be staying 100% completely in your lane while shoulder checking. Then, look forward again. Then move over while looking where you’re going.
Make your move
4) Move into your new lane! Check your rear-view mirror again to see what’s going on in your new lane. How is the vehicle behind? Is he too close? Should you leave more room in front of you? Is there an emergency vehicle approaching?
Solid White Lines
*Keep in mind it’s illegal to lane change over a solid white line. Avoid lane changing in intersections (not actually illegal, but not a good idea either).
Illegal and unsafe lane changes:
New driver practicing lane changing: