19 Dec Changing Lanes: How to Do it Safely
It’s not uncommon for learner drivers to find the prospect of changing lanes particularly harrowing; the busier the road, the more daunting the prospect of switching lanes when the need arises.
A wide variety of different situations call for lane change while driving, such as the following:
- Overtaking– If it is necessary to overtake a vehicle, you will need to change lanes twice in relatively quick succession.
- Exiting Motorways and Dual Carriageways– Knowing when and how to change lanes safely is essential for the safe exiting of major roads.
- Approaching Junctions– Likewise, you also need to ensure that you switch to the right lane in plenty of time, when approaching junctions.
- Roundabouts– Switching lines while negotiating busy roundabouts can be particularly challenging, and calls for a good deal of care and attention.
If you find yourself in the wrong lane, attempting to switch quickly or aggressively at the last moment is a bad idea. Instead, it’s better to continue in the lane you’re in and make adjustments to your route to compensate when it is safe to do so.
How to Change Lanes the Right Way
As with all driving skills, practice makes perfect when changing lanes. It’s a transition that seems difficult at first, but soon becomes second nature.
The most important thing to remember where all manoeuvres are concerned is the criticality of the MSM approach – aka Mirror, Signal, and Manoeuvre. Other than this, there are four equally important steps involved in changing lanes safely when out and about on public roads:
- Prepare to change
Preparation holds the key to safe manoeuvres across the board. In this case, you’ll want to begin preparing for your lane change in advance and to make sure you are in the correct lane as early as possible. Knowing your planned route can help, as can the use of a GPS system, enabling you to know which lane you need to be in and when. Again, don’t make the mistake of attempting to change lanes at the last minute, even if you are in entirely the wrong lane.
- Check your mirrors
When you know which lane you need to be in, the next thing to do is to check your mirrors. You will need to check your rear-view mirror and your side mirror, in order to note for any hazards behind or next to your car. A quick glance over your shoulder is also essential, as there may be hazards or obstacles you could not see in your blind spot. Also, be mindful of the fact that any cars, bikes or vehicles on the road in general could be approaching at speed, so you will need to take into account any approaching vehicles before switching lanes.
- Signal your intent
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that signalling gives you the entitlement to switch lanes. It is simply an indication to other motorists that you intend to switch lanes and to do so only when it is safe and appropriate. Signal your intent to change lanes and continue signalling until you are able to switch lanes safely. You may then need to manually cancel your signal after switching lanes, if your car does not do so automatically on your behalf.
- Change lanes
All that’s left to do now is move safely into the other lane, performing the MSM routine as normal. Look at your mirrors once again, maintain a steady speed and move carefully into the correct lane. Turn off your indicator if your manoeuvre is complete, or signal left before moving back into your prior lane when overtaking.