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How to Lane Change Safely

by Yule Xie



Lane changing is one of the most common causes of accidents on the road. You can bump into someone in your blind zone, not notice another vehicle speeding behind you, or even forget to stop at a red light due to your attention being drawn away. As a student driver myself, lane changing was initially a headache due to many possible dangers. However, as I gathered my driving hours it has more or less become a relaxed procedure. In this article I will discuss effective ways to reduce this risk so you may have a comfortable and safe experience driving.


Turn Signals

First, turn signals are crucial as they should begin the process of a safe lane change. Ever felt annoyed why no one is letting you merge close to an intersection or on the highway? It perhaps may be that you are not signaling. Your blinkers serve the critical function of indicating your next move, which can help you in many circumstances, such as other drivers slowing down to let you on the highway. 


Mirror and Over the Shoulder

When lane changing, the mirrors will also become your best friend. Keep in mind though – the blind zone exists and it is the spot slightly behind the left or right side of your vehicle. You should first look at your rear view as well as your side mirror first so you have a general idea of traffic. Then – perhaps the most important step to ensure safety – physically turn your head around to check if there are any objects in your path. With this combo done accurately, you are perhaps 90% of the way there.

Once you have ensured that the path is safe, you can go – simple as that.


Maintaining your Speed

Another important concept besides the actual procedure of lane changing is the idea of speed. Many student drivers (me included!) in their first drives either get nervous or forget about speed when lane changing. This is a mistake especially when you are passing someone when speed is necessary. So, don’t panic – there is nothing worse than an unprepared or rushed response.



Over the Shoulder is NOT Staring Back

While turning around is essential in a safe lane change, keep in mind that there is also the error of staring back too long. In fact, I had that problem during my first drives when I would perform the “over the shoulder” operation for too much time, resulting in me having less control over the steering wheel. Over the shoulder should simply be a quick check, not turning your entire body which oddly, creates a new “blind zone” in the front of your vehicle.


Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

When lane changing, it is also helpful to have a wide vision. For example, when you are approaching an intersection, it is probably not a good idea to rush a lane change as the lights may change. On the other hand, if you are on the highway and the lane you are on ends soon, then you should probably prepare to make your move. 



Finally: Stay in your lane!

Although the tips above are essential methods to be safe, you simply cannot control other drivers, and since lane changing is, after all, still the major root of accidents, why change lanes when you don’t have to? When you lane change there should be a definite purpose, or you are simply putting yourself at risk for no reason.


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