Lane changing can be a difficult skill to master and at the early stages of learning it can be a very stressful experience. Some common challenges are:
unable to identify a safe gap
fear of checking the blind spot
vehicle drifting while making observations
incorrect use of indicator
adjusting speed if necessary
Now! Let’s have a look at a step by step process for lane changing from start to finish.
Observe through your mirrors. To begin with check your rear view mirror and your outside mirror. What you are looking for is other vehicles and their position on the road. It is important to take note of distance and the speed of travel. For example, does the red car in the right lane behind you looks like it is getting closer, is it getting further away or is it looking like the distance is consistently the same? This simple observation will give you information of what to look for and do next. Which is ….
PLEASE NOTE! Most learner will ease off the accelerator as soon as they want to change lanes. This causes a drop in speed and although at curtain situations this action may be needed, for most part doing so causes more problems. So keep in mind that when changing lanes the speed is kept at a constant level and within the legal limits.
Indicate and choose a safe gap. There are a couple of things worth noting here. Firstly indicating play’s a crucial part in creating a safe gap and letting other road users know your intentions. So indicate early even if you are unsure if the gap is safe. Indicating informs the other road user what you want to do. This gives them an opportunity to either speed up and overtake you or ease off and give you space to move in. Either way you have created a safe gap to move into, simply by indicating early. Secondly, the most difficult part of lane changing is deciding if the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle behind is safe. To start with, look to see if at minimum the vehicles front tyres are visible in the rear view mirror. In addition make an observation of the speed in which the vehicle is travelling at, for example, If you’re travelling at 60 km and the other vehicle is travelling at 65 km it will look like It’s getting closer. DO NOT move into the new lane at that point in time. On the other hand, if the car is travelling at a lower speed than you it will look like the vehicle is getting further away and this may be a good time to start to move in. However I would encourage that you wait and observe for a few seconds before acting. This is important as it makes sure you have given the other driver time to acknowledged your intentions and they continue to stay at a safe distance. Once you have decided that a safe gap is available your last observation is a head check…..
Head Check….Head Check……Head Check!!! Not only can you fail your driving test if you don’t do a head check but it is just dangerous behavior. A head check is simply physically looking at a spot on the road that cannot be seen through the mirrors. It is a simple turn of the head over the shoulder looking at the direction of the blind spot. Never move into a new lane without physically turning your head and looking into your blind spot to make sure it is clear. A lot of learners and supervising drivers believe taking your eyes of the road in front while doing a lane change is dangerous. This is very untrue for a number of reasons. A head check should not take longer than a few seconds. It’s the responsibility of the driver to have a complete understanding and awareness of hazards and situations ahead before looking at a different direction. If all potential hazards ahead have been taken into account then there shouldn’t be a problem with looking away for a second, nothing unexpected should occur. An example to illustrate this is as follows: It is always encouraged that lane changing should not be done while approaching traffic lights or in the middle of the intersection. This is because we need all of our attention to safely cross and be aware of any unexpected change that may happen while approaching or entering an intersection. Once we have crossed the traffic lights and are keeping at a safe following distance from vehicles ahead we can then proceed to change lanes which includes a head check without compromising safety. In other words doing a head check should only be done at a time when it is safe to do so. Once you have made all observations and determined that it is safe to change lanes you can……….
Move in to the new lane. While moving into the new lane keep your indicator on until you have fully completed the lane change. That is, all four wheels must be in the new lane before switching of the indicator. Do a last check in the rear view mirror for any changes that may have happened while changing lanes and proceed.
Remember! there are a number of aspects involved in lane changing that I may have not covered.
This is a good start to develop your skills and build your confidence in lane changing and through good supervision, lots of practice and your own driving experience the challenges of lane changing would be a think of the past.