Whitney Russell

9 Tips for Safely Merging and Switching Lanes

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Many schools are back in session which translates to increased traffic during prime commuting hours. With more people on the road, safe driving is more important than ever. 4% of traffic collisions are due to issues with merging, whether it’s a failure to slow down or a case of merging entitlement. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind to protect both you and other drivers while merging and switching lanes.

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Tips for Merging


Photo: Pixabay


1) Traffic already on the highway has right of way.

This means that when you’re on an exit ramp about to merge onto the highway, autos can make room for you or keep on going in that first lane. You must yield to them.



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2) When the lane lines end, the car in front of you has right of way.

Even if the driver in front of you is creeping at a snail’s pace, you still need to give them space and time to merge before maneuvering your own vehicle onto the freeway.



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A zipper can help you to visualize what “taking turns merging” looks like.
Photo: TranBC

3) If traffic is heavy, leave sufficient space and take turns merging.

In rush hour, it might be tempting to merge as fast as you can to outspeed the cars around you and get to your destination faster. When roads are congested though, it’s safest to go slowly and take turns merging, to spread out the flow of traffic.



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turn signal

Use your turn signal
Photo: BC Driving Blog

4) Always use your turn signal.

When merging onto a highway, the turn signal is your friend. It alerts both those on the highway and those behind you that your car is about to merge.



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traffic flow

Go with the traffic flow.
Photo: City of Santa Monica

5) When possible, bring your car up to legal speed.

Sometimes traffic conditions will require you to merge more slowly than usual to keep everyone safe, like in rush hour or if there’s an accident nearby. But when possible, make sure to match the legal speed of whatever highway you’re merging onto.



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Tips for Changing Lanes

turn signal

Signal ahead of time
Photo: Parade

6) Put your turn signal on well in advance.

A good rule of thumb is to signal at least five seconds before you change lanes. Remember that other drivers can’t read your mind, so help them out.



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Use Your Mirrors

Use Your Mirrors
Photo: YouTube

7) Check your mirrors.

Before changing lanes, use your mirrors to make sure the lane is clear. Mirrors can help you spot a speeding car you might not have picked up on otherwise.



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Know your vehicle’s blindspot areas.
Photo: Central York Drivers Education

8) Check your blind spots.

Mirrors can help you merge safely, but they can never replace turning your head to check your blind spots. It’s so easy for a small car or motorcycle to slip into this dangerous zone and not realize it.



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Turn Off Your Turn Signal

Turn off your turn signal as soon as you’re done changing lanes or merging.
Photo: Quick Meme

9) Turn off your signal once you’ve changed lanes.

Turn signals are helpful when used correctly—and confusing when they’re used incorrectly. Make sure to turn off your turn signal right after you’ve switched lanes.

These guidelines should keep everyone safer, the next time you merge or change lanes.



Sources: Road Safety Commission, Dulaney Lauer Thomas