Making Safe & Proper Lane Changes

One of the biggest reasons that new drivers fail the driving portion of their Nevada DMV skills test is due to making unsafe lane changes. While experienced drivers make lane changes look easy, understand that this is one of the most difficult maneuvers for a new driver to make. As such, great caution should be taken when teaching the new driver how to make a safe and proper lane change.

The biggest reason that a lane change is deemed to be unsafe is due to the driver failing to check their blindspot. I have found that most drivers remember to activate their turn signal and know to check their rearview and side-view mirrors but many forget or never learn to turn their head and look over their shoulder to check their blindspot before making the move into the intended lane.

That being said, here are the steps you should take to ensure you are making a proper and safe lane change:

  1. Activate the appropriate turn signal to indicate the direction of your lane change
  2. With the turn signal activated, check your rearview and sideview mirrors to ensure that you can safely move into the intended lane.
  3. After checking the mirrors, immediately turn your head to look over the shoulder to check your vehicle’s blindspot for the direction of your intended lane change. Every vehicle has its own blindspots where vehicles can “hide” out of view of the rear and side view mirrors.
  4. If the blindspot is clear, “glide” smoothly into the intended lane. Remember that a lane change takes very little steering input and it should be more of a smooth “gliding” movement rather than turning the steering wheel. Adding too much steering wheel input results in an abrupt “jerky” movement that needs to be eliminated. It will take some practice to achieve a smooth lane change.
  5. Once the vehicle is completely in the lane, deactivate the turn signal.

Another common and very unsafe mistake that the new driver tends to make is that they “take” the vehicle with them when they turn their head to look over their shoulder when checking their blindspot. For many new drivers, when they turn their heads to look over their shoulder, they have the very unsafe tendency to move their hands/arms at the same time. The result of this is the vehicle moving into another lane while the driver is looking back to check their blindspot. You can be certain that if you are making a lane change while looking backwards, you will fail your Nevada driving test.

To avoid this common problem, I teach my students to push their back firmly against the seat and to grip the steering wheel more firmly while concentrating on moving their head rather than their entire body when checking their blindspots. It is important to note that checking the blindspot does not mean contorting the body to look out the rear window of the vehicle, as many new drivers tend to due.

A good way that I have found to break the habit of turning the body and the unintended action of the vehicle moving is to first locate the blindspots of your particular vehicle. As a general rule, the blindspotsare approximately 5-feet behind the vehicle and 3-feet out away from the vehicle. With the student seated in the vehicle, they should not be able to see a person standing at this location using their mirrors. Likewise, the person standing in the blindspot, should not be able to see the driver through the side-view mirror.

From this point, with the vehicle off and in park , the driver should practice turning their head 50-100 times quickly looking over their shoulder in order to see the person standing in their blindspot and looking back at the road in front of them.

Remember, checking the blindspot should be done very quickly. Many new drivers look back for too long, as if they are searching for something that is hiding from them. The point is, if a driver checks their blindspot, they will immediately see something if it is there. So, a quick check of the blindspot is all that is needed. Quickly checking the blindspot ensures nothing is there and it allows the driver to focus back on the road ahead of them quickly.

Determine if there is Enough Room to Safely Make the Lane Change

It is virtually impossible to teach speed and closing distance to a new driver. This is something that is learned through driving experience. When making a lane change, it is extremely important to ensure that there is enough room for you to safely enter the adjacent lane. Judging this depends upon the speed and the distance of the vehicle occupying the lane you want to enter. With practice, the new driver will learn to gauge speed and distance. When just learning, it is important to be extra cautious when other vehicles are near you when you are changing lanes.

Maintain Speed

Another common mistake with the new driver making lane changes is that with some much to think about, they often have a tendency to let off the gas and slow the vehicle down. This is extremely dangerous and can result in a serious traffic collision. If vehicles are traveling 45mph and you move into the lane next to you at a significantly slower speed, you are asking for trouble. In heavy traffic, making lane changes is much more difficult.

Intersections

Drivers should avoid making lane changes within an intersection as it can be extremely dangerous. This is because other vehicles are often entering and exiting the intersection as you travel through it. As such, they will be making their decisions based on your position in the roadway. Suddenly changing lanes upon entering or while in the intersection can result in serious traffic collisions.

Our Las Vegas driving school specializes in making difficult driving situations easy for teens and adults alike. If you’d like more information on taking driving lessons with one of our DMV licensed, professional driving instructors, give us a call today at (702) 907-9992.

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