Last updated: August 2022

Tips For Driving on the Highway for the First Time

If you’re new to driving, you’ve probably been perfecting your craft with short trips around town. But once you master these relatively quiet roads, you should know how to drive on the highway without fear. We know that jumping on a four-lane (or more) interstate can feel overwhelming the first time, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are highway driving safety tips to help you calm your nerves and arrive safely at your destination

Choose your first highway drive carefully.

To ease into your first highway driving experience, plan ahead to avoid the busiest stretches of highway at the most crowded times of the day. For example, if you live in Atlanta, you might want to avoid I-75 at rush hour. While you’ll never be able to completely predict traffic, you can follow general rules like avoiding times when commuters will be clogging up the highways. The busiest times are typically on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Also, consider practicing in favorable driving conditions. Don’t take on your biggest driving challenge yet in dangerous weather, like heavy rain or snow.

Review best practices for merging.

When you actually get behind the wheel and start to head toward the highway, it’s important to remember the rules for merging before you start driving up the entrance ramp. For many people, merging is the most frightening part of interstate driving, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some basic steps to follow.

  1. Begin to pick up speed on the entrance ramp and use quick glances to check for traffic in the lane you'll be entering.
  2. Use your turn signal to indicate your intent to merge over.
  3. When clear, speed up in the acceleration lane.
  4. Yield to other drivers. If you are trying to merge, you do not have the right of way.
  5. When it’s safe, enter the highway and try to match the speed of other cars.

Try to stay in the right lane initially.

While you might be tempted to get into the often-speedier left lane, it’s a good idea to stick to the right lane when you’re starting out. The traffic may be slower on this side of the road, but this will help you get comfortable on the highway. If you do need to change lanes, whether it be for an accident or a stopped vehicle on the shoulder, you can always follow these tips for changing lanes. Also, if you’re going to change lanes or take an exit, always make sure to use your turn signals.

Maintain a safe following distance.

Want to lower your chances of being involved in an accident? Maintain a safe following distance by following the two-second rule! It’s pretty simple to follow, and it can help protect you from being involved in a rear-end collision.

  1. Scope out an object along the highway. It could be an overpass, a billboard, a large tree, or whatever else you want.
  2. When the car in front of you passes your chosen object, start counting.
  3. If you reach the object faster than two seconds, you are probably too close to the vehicle in front of you.
  4. Adjust your following distance accordingly.

The two-second rule is a good guideline, but it’s not flawless. For example, if you’re ever driving in poor weather conditions, you might want to increase the number of seconds in your count. When in doubt, it’s always better to play it safe.

Pay close attention to your surroundings.

With so many cars in the lanes around you, a lot can happen in a short period of time. Make sure to pay close attention to the road in its entirety. Be aware of more than just the car in front of you. Look ahead to see if you see brake lights or any signs of trouble. Regularly check your mirrors to be aware of cars behind you and vehicles that might be entering your blind spots. By keeping your head on a swivel, you will be much safer.

Limit distractions.

While it’s never safe to fiddle around with your phone or pay too much attention to the radio, those actions can have more devastating consequences when you’re driving at a much higher speed. If you’re new to interstate driving, it’s important to limit distractions at all costs. Do not use your phone or switch songs. If you have passengers in the car, make sure you’re more focused on the highway than the people in the passenger seat or backseat of your vehicle.

How dangerous are driving distractions like texting and driving? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending or reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for roughly 5 seconds. At a speed of 55 miles per hour, that’s the equivalent of traveling an entire football field without looking at the road. Scary stuff!

Expect the unexpected.

We hope your first drive on the highway goes off smoothly, but if we’ve learned anything since we started providing affordable coverage to drivers in 1991, it’s that you just can’t predict what’s going to happen when you get behind the wheel. This is why we always recommend trying to prepare for situations that may arise. For example, you might want to consider keeping these essential items in your car just in case you need them. Or, maybe you want to look into a roadside assistance plan in case you get a flat tire or experience some sort of other problem that would leave you stranded on the side of the road. It never hurts to be prepared, especially when you’re just starting out.

Have questions about roadside assistance or want to make sure you have the appropriate coverage as you begin to drive more and more? We’d love to help! Give us a call 877-463-4732 or stop by your local Direct Auto office!

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