Stage 4: Changing Lanes on the Highway

Location: Highway
Length of Lesson: 15-20 minutes

Recognize the speed differences between lanes

Changing lanes on the highway can be particularly challenging due to the high speeds as well as the relative difference in speeds between lanes. For instance, the traffic on the far left lane may be traveling 75 mph whereas the traffic in the middle lane may be traveling 65mph and the far right lane, 55mph. This is foreign to new drivers who are accustomed to driving on city streets in which all lanes of traffic are traveling at approximately the same speed.

You Must React Quickly

Just as we discussed in the article on merging, gaps in traffic can close quickly on the highway. New drivers are shocked to find that a gap that was open five seconds ago is now occupied by a fast-approaching truck or car. That’s why changing lanes on the highway requires several steps:

  • Find a gap in traffic in the lane you wish to move into.
  • Activate your turn signal.
  • Check traffic ahead of and behind you to ensure it is clear.
  • Check traffic one lane over from the lane you’re going to move into to make sure no other car is trying to move into the same spot. This is extremely important.
  • Use the side mirror to ensure that your blind spot is clear. If you’re using the <BGE mirror settings> (which we strenuously recommend), you don’t need to do an over-the-shoulder check. Personally, I believe that the over-the-shoulder check is dangerous because new drivers tend to inadvertently turn the wheel in the direction they look. Plus, it requires turning your entire field of vision away from the direction you’re traveling. Proponents of this method suggest that, well, it’s only for a second. They say that it’s just a “quick glance”. Well, then what good is it? A quick glance isn’t long enough to determine what a car is doing (if it’s changing direction or speed). It only tells you if a car is located where you’ve looked. Well, if you use the BGE mirror setting, you obtain the exact same information without the dangerous side-effects of an over-the-shoulder glance. Of course, there’s nothing illegal about the over-the-shoulder glance, so if it makes you feel more comfortable, go ahead and do it.
  • Quickly move into the new lane.
  • Turn off your turn signal.

Should My Teen Accelerate When They Move Into a New Lane?

There are certain incontrovertible rules in driving such as “Do not go on Red”. There are a lot of people who believe, with a fierce tenacity, that you should always accelerate when changing lanes on the highway. Who came up with this? You should base the speed at which you change lanes upon the traffic conditions!

Now, I understand why people believe this: if you’re moving from a lane that is traveling 60mph into a lane that is also traveling 60mph, you will need to slightly increase your speed in order to maintain your position in the flow of traffic as you change lanes. This is because your car is slightly angled away from straight ahead while you change lanes. And obviously, if you’re moving from a lane that is traveling 55mph into a lane that is traveling 65mph, you will need to accelerate during the lane change in order to keep up with the flow of traffic. But, what about moving from a lane that is traveling 65mph into a lane that is traveling 55mph. Should you still accelerate? No! You should probably take your foot off the accelerator and cover the brake as you change lanes.

Talk Your Teen Through the Lane Change

With most new tasks on the highway, you need to talk your teen through the decision-making process of changing lanes. For the first several lane changes, you should double-check all of their mirrors to make sure that the lane they’re moving into is indeed clear.

Continue on to Passing on a Divided Highway

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