HOW DO YOU HANDLE MERGING TRAFFIC?
Pop quiz: You’re driving in the right lane of a highway. The speed limit is 55 mph. You’re approaching an entrance lane and there are cars that need to merge into your lane.
- Do you just maintain your speed in the right lane and ignore the situation since you have the right-of-way.
- Do you slow down in the right lane to let the other car(s) in?
- Do you move over to the middle lane so as not to get involved with the other car(s)?
It’s a common experience for drivers. Some will move over, some will slow down and others will ignore the situation entirely. Is there a right answer? Of course, there is. If you’re an observant driver you would have noticed a sign ¼ mile or ½ mile ahead of the entrance, warning you that you’re approaching an entrance lane (pictured above). Is it possible you’ve never seen that sign? Is it possible you never knew what it meant?
Now why should there be a sign warning you there is an entrance up ahead? Well, because there is danger up ahead. There are drivers who don’t know how to merge onto a highway, for instance, drivers who don’t understand acceleration lanes or the laws of right-of-way. There are drivers who shouldn’t be getting on the highway, for instance, unlicensed drivers, drunk drivers, distracted drivers, novice drivers, and permit holders.
Let’s analyze the various solutions cited above.
If you stay in your lane without reducing speed it’s because you think you have the right-of-way over the driver trying to get onto the highway. Big mistake. I’ve discussed in previous blogs that the law doesn’t give anyone the right-of-way. It can only be given to you by the other driver – in this case the driver trying to merge. He/she is supposed to yield to traffic already on the highway – but will they? What if the driver is drunk, distracted or a novice and doesn’t see you approaching – and doesn’t yield? The what do you do? Too late to slow down from 55 mph. Too late to move over – safely, that is by signaling and checking traffic. You might swerve into another car. As my headline says, staying in your lane and ignoring the situation is a habit that can get you killed.
What about slowing down? Well, it sounds like a plan but if there’s another driver tailgating you, which is not uncommon, you will have a rear-end collision. Do you consider that a good alternative?
Now, about moving over. You might say that’s not a possibility since there might be a car alongside you. Well, who put that car alongside you? You did! If you had been observant and noticed you were driving alongside another car you could have adjusted your speed to change the position of that car in relation to yours.
Notice I said the warning signs are posted ¼ or ½ mile ahead of the entrance. The reason for that is to give you enough time to signal, check traffic and adjust your speed (if necessary) in order to make a safe lane change. If you feel you’re not up to the task, then maybe you shouldn’t be driving on highways.