Freeway merging takes more skill than most people think
Article By: Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada. He was a judge on the first 3 seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper since 2005. Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines and various web-sites. You can visit his own blog at http://safedriving.wordpress.com.
As we go through life, we find many people who try to blend in through life. They avoid trying to stand out from the crowd and are quite happy to just mix together with those around them. I certainly hope they do the same thing when they’re on the freeway. Learning how to merge safely is a skill and knowing what to do to allow others to merge safely is also a skill. Do you have either skill?
To be able to safely merge onto the freeway you’ll need to accelerate up to the speed of traffic before you merge. It’s much easier to blend in with the crowd if you’re doing the same thing as the crowd. Drivers who attempt to merge onto the freeway at a speed lower than everyone else make it difficult for them to enter safely. The traffic behind them will catch up very quickly and most likely will begin to tailgate them. It also creates a lot of braking from the multitude of drivers behind, which creates a huge delay with the flow of traffic.
As you work your way along the acceleration lane, begin to assess the speed of traffic already on the freeway to ensure you can match their speed. Sometimes the traffic may be going slightly quicker than the speed limit. That means you will need to do the same to safely blend into the traffic flow. If you elect to drive the speed limit, you’ll once again create tailgating and a risk of a rear crash in case you have to brake. I know you’re following the law, but sometimes we need to think outside the box to create space around our vehicle. Keep additional space in front of your vehicle to allow you to blend in smoothly. Tailgating the driver ahead of you only makes the merging more difficult.
As you accelerate, begin to check your mirrors and your blind spot early. Knowing if you have space to merge into before you need to merge is important. Checking early gives you time to make adjustments. If you wait until you reach the end of the acceleration lane before checking, it may be a bit late to adjust and that can force you to almost stop. For example, if the freeway traffic is thick, you may want to accelerate a bit more to get ahead of the traffic before you merge. Or you may want to let the traffic pass before you merge in safely behind them. This allows for all traffic to keep space.
If you’re the driver already on the freeway and you see someone trying to merge, let them. If you can change lanes to let them in, it makes their entry easier and it allows you to keep going along at your pace. If you’re unable to change lanes, adjust your speed quicker or slower to allow them in behind you or in front of you. Following these techniques will allow for any successful merger.