You are only regaining your confidence in driving, but lane changing has always been a significant problem. And you are that person who would rather stay in your current lane and potentially go the wrong direction than attempt to change lanes unless you had someone to reassure you. Well, there are ways to judge distance when changing lanes without feeling intimidated.
Of course, we are referring to situations where another vehicle is present in the lane you’re trying to move into. It gets tough for you to determine if they are allowing you to merge or not. Your driving instructor, despite you already having your license and simply taking some refresher lessons, advised you to watch for signs of them slowing down. However, even that seems challenging for you to gauge in your wing mirror. Let’s fix this now.
How to Judge Distance When Changing Lanes
1. Activate your indicator
The turn signals are your communication tool with other drivers, notifying them of your intention to switch lanes. As per the Missouri Department of Revenue, “You should signal at least 100 feet before you turn so the other drivers can be ready.”
Whether you plan to change lanes, merge, or park, your blinker can significantly contribute to your road safety and avoidance of traffic violations. In situations of congested traffic, your turn signal becomes a courteous request to another driver to allow you to move ahead.
2. Assess your surroundings through your rearview and side mirrors
The important aspect of lane changes is not just distance but also the speed of the vehicles around you. Suppose you are in the right lane and intend to shift to the left. You look into your mirror and notice a vehicle somewhat distant. Observe it for a while longer. Is it growing larger in your mirror, shrinking, or remaining the same size? If it is increasing in size, it means the vehicle is overtaking you, and it is safer to wait until it passes. If it is static, the relative speeds are comparable, and you can potentially shift ahead of them. If it’s reducing in size, you are pulling away from the vehicle and can switch lanes without any concerns – that’s how you judge the distance and change lanes like a pro.
3. Check your blind spot by glancing over your shoulder
Even after you’ve inspected your surroundings via your mirrors, there’s a blind spot behind your car that may not be visible – a spot that might contain a car or motorcycle.
Right after checking your mirrors, look over your right shoulder for anything you might have overlooked. When checking your mirrors and blind spot, you can easily overlook smaller objects like bicycles, so remain alert. It also helps to prevent collisions by making sure you do not stay too long in other drivers’ blind spots.
For highway driving, ensure the car in your preferred lane is fully visible in your rearview mirror. Always check your mirror(s) at least twice before changing lanes.
4. Switch lanes
Once it is safe to make the lane change, go for it. Keep your speed constant and transition into the lane in a seamless manner. If necessary, speed up to shorten the lane changing time for safety. Sometimes, it is not unsafe to go faster and continually scan your mirrors. Don’t feel intimidated. If you have a passenger, it is okay to ask for help, as long as you are checking too.
5. Deactivate your turn signal
Do not be the driver who continues down the freeway with their turn signal flashing unnecessarily. Once you’ve successfully moved into your intended lane, switch off your blinker immediately.
Common Errors When Changing Lanes
1. Taking too long to complete each step
Road conditions change rapidly, so try to complete each step as fast as possible, within a few seconds of the previous one.
2. Slowing down or braking before changing lanes
When switching lanes, keep up with the flow of traffic. Maintain your speed when merging, then adapt to the speed of your new lane, whether it means decelerating or slightly speeding up.
3. Shifting position while checking your blind spot
A brief check should suffice. Once you’ve confirmed your blind spot is clear, return your focus to the road to avoid colliding with another vehicle.
4. Merging onto the highway before the car ahead of you
When you enter a highway, vehicles already on the freeway have the right of way. Therefore, they’re not obliged to create space for you – it’s your duty to identify and use any gap available. While finding a gap, don’t lose track of the cars in front of you to avoid merging directly into another vehicle. As a pro tip, it is often safer to allow the drivers in front of you to merge first to reduce the likelihood of colliding with them.
5. Neglecting to use or turn off your turn signal
Your turn signal communicates your intentions while on the road. It signals to other drivers that you plan to make a move. Forgetting to turn it off after merging or activating it mid-way through a maneuver can be confusing and potentially hazardous.
Never neglect any of these steps or make these frequent mistakes and remember to stay alert. It also helps to protect yourself with cost-effective auto insurance such as collision coverage. If an accident happens while merging, collision coverage would come to the rescue of your pocket. Collision coverage compensates for the repair or replacement of your vehicle if it is damaged in a collision, regardless of who is at fault.