How to Change Lanes & Merge

One of the key skills you need to learn when you start driving is how to change lanes and merge into traffic. It may sound simple but can become more stressful when traveling at high speeds in dense traffic. What are the key steps to stay safe (and the common mistakes to avoid)? Here's what you need to know. 

How to Switch Lanes

Changing lanes in traffic can be a bit tricky at times. What's the right way to do it? Here are the main steps. 

1. Maintain Your Speed

When changing lanes, you should maintain your speed. Don't let off the gas. You want to keep up with the normal flow of traffic.

2. Turn on Your Blinker

Turn on your blinker to tell those around you what you're planning. 

3. Look for an Opening

Look for an opening in the lane that you can safely enter. 

4. Check Your Side and Rearview Mirrors 

To further ensure the opening is safe, check the side mirror on the side you plan to merge into along with the rearview mirror for other vehicles. 

5. Check Your Blind Spot

Even with all the mirror checks, you will have a blind spot. As the last step before making the change, look over your shoulder in the direction you plan to merge. Make sure no other vehicle is coming.  

6. Merge Into the New Lane

Once all is clear, turn the steering wheel gradually and as needed to move into the new lane while keeping up your speed. You don't want to jerk over to the new lane but also don't want to take too long. 

7. Turn Off Your Blinker

Once you've completed merging into the new lane, check to make sure your blinker is turned off. 

Common Mistakes when Changing Lanes

Now that you know how to change lanes safely, here are the common mistakes to avoid!

Not Checking Your Blind Spot

A common mistake that can be disastrous is skipping the check of your blind spot. When you first start driving, you may forget or think your mirror checks are adequate but you always need to do a quick look over your shoulder. Why? There is an area that you just can't see with your mirrors and it's right next to you. 

Not Turning on Your Turn Signal

Your turn signal lets those around you understand your intentions and upcoming behavior. When changing lanes, this ensures you can merge safely. For example, if the car behind you also needs to merge but sees you are merging, they will likely wait until you've safely changed lanes. Additionally, if another car is planning on speeding up to pass you but sees you are moving over, they will likely remain in the lane and wait. Overall, it's better for everyone around you to know when you're about to change lanes or turn. 

Forgetting to Turn Off Your Turn Signal

After you've made the lane change, be sure to turn off your turn signal. Leaving it on can confuse other drivers, especially when you are in a lane where it is still possible to merge over in the direction your signal is indicating. 

Slowing Down

Another common mistake is slowing down to merge. When you slow down, it sets off a chain reaction and the people behind you have to slow down. It also causes a disruption when you get to your new lane as traffic will again need to slow down and you'll need to hit the gas. It's better for all to keep going at the same speed throughout lane changes so traffic continues without unnecessary braking. 

Learn More About Safe Driving Techniques

Changing lanes is an important skill to master, but there are many more you'll need to learn before getting behind the wheel. If you're a teen looking to get your license as soon as possible, the first step is completing your driver's ed courses. You don't have to worry about going into a classroom anymore as you can complete your courses online at your own pace with DriversEd.com. Start online driver's ed today!

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