Last updated: August 2022

Safety Rules of The Road: How to Change Lanes & Merge

Blinker on, mirror checked, MERGE! Changing lanes doesn't have to send your blood pressure straight through the sunroof. Take a walk down memory lane – straight back to driving school – and learn how to merge and change lanes safely.

Changing Lanes: What To Do

Step #1: Turn on your turn signal.

Turn signals are the only way you can let other drivers know that you'll be changing lanes. Traffic School Online reports that you are legally required to activate your turn signals at least 100 feet before making your move. Using your blinker to signal your intent to change lanes, merge into traffic, and even turn into a parking spot can help keep you safe and ticket-free. Plus, when you're in a traffic jam, using your turn signal may be the only way to "ask" another driver to let you in ahead of them.

Step #2: Check your rearview and side mirrors.

After activating your blinker, take a look into your rearview and side mirror to ensure you have enough space to make the lane change. If there's a car in the lane you're merging into, wait until you can see the entire vehicle (wheels included) and a few feet of pavement in front of it in your rearview mirror.

At this point, if the other car is going at or below the same speed as you are, you should have enough room to change lanes. It's essential to keep an eye on the speed of the car you're trying to merge ahead of — if they're accelerating, you are better off letting them pass you before changing lanes (as the space for your car is quickly closing).

While some states allow drivers to speed when passing slow vehicles, doing so isn't always in your best interest. Speeding is one of the fastest ways to increase your risk of an accident.

Step #3: Look over your shoulder to check your blind spot.

Even after checking your mirrors, there's a spot behind the car that you can't see – and that spot could easily contain a car or motorcycle! Immediately after checking your mirrors, look over your right shoulder to ensure you don't miss anything. Always remember when checking your mirrors and blind spot that it's easy to miss smaller objects, like cyclists, so keep your eyes peeled. Additionally, you can better avoid getting hit by not lingering in other drivers' blind spots.

Step #4: Change lanes!

Once you've determined that it is safe to change lanes, it's time to go for it! Maintain your speed and glide into the lane smoothly.

Step #5: Turn your turn signal off.

Don't be that person driving down the highway with your turn signal blinking. As soon as you're in your desired lane, turn off your blinker.

Now that you got the steps down, watch a car change lanes in the GIF below!

How to change lanes GIF

Changing Lanes: What Not To Do

Mistake #1: Take too long to do all the steps.

Things change quickly on the road, and you should do every step within a couple of seconds of the other.

Mistake  #2: Merge onto the highway before the car in front of you.

When merging onto the highway, the cars that are already on the freeway have the right of way, according to Ford Driving Skills for Life. This means they're not obligated to make space for you. Instead, it's your responsibility to find a gap.

However, don't forget the cars in front of your vehicle while locating a space next to you. If you do, you could end up merging right into another car's rear end. It's best to let the motorists ahead of you merge first to minimize the risk of accelerating into one of them.

Here's a GIF that outlines the step of merging onto the highway.

How to merge onto the highway / expressway GIF

Mistake #3: Forget to activate or deactivate your turn signal.

Your turn signal is your voice on the road. Using your turn signal alerts other cars that you're making a move. Leaving it on after you've merged or turning it on when you're halfway through a turn is confusing and potentially dangerous!

Mistake #4: Brake or slow down before changing lanes.

When changing lanes, you should continue going with the flow of traffic. That means maintaining your speed when merging, and then catching up to the speed of the lane that you move into — whether that means slowing down or accelerating a bit.

Mistake #5: Drift while checking your blind spot.

A quick check is all you need. Once you've made sure your blind spot is clear, you must get your eyes back on the road. After all, you don't want to merge into another vehicle's rear end!

Don't flunk your driver's test (or worse, get into an accident) by skipping any of these steps or committing any of these common errors. Stay prepared and protect yourself with affordable car insurance from Direct Auto Insurance. Collision coverage is the primary type of car insurance coverage that would come into play if you were involved in an accident while merging. Collision pays to repair or replace your vehicle if it's damaged in a collision, regardless of who is at fault.

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