Changing Lanes Safely Whilst Driving
Changing lanes whilst driving, for a learner driver can often seem like a precarious situation.
The driving test may involve changing lanes either intentionally, or a learner, they may realise that they are in an incorrect lane and may need to change in order to remain on course. Changing lanes is actually a rather simple task.
What can be difficult is to actually make a decision quickly, or at least the correct one and to ensure it is done safely. This tutorial explain the correct technique for changing lanes and if it is actually necessary.
WHEN MIGHT YOU NEED TO CHANGE LANES
These are the typical places where you may need to or have to change lanes during a driving test:
- Overtaking. In a driving test, this will be done on a dual carriageway and not a single carriageway road.
- Approaching junctions. This can include roundabouts, T-junctions or crossroads.
- Dual carriageways and A roads. A dual carriageway or ‘A’ roads may require a lane change in order to follow a particular route.
- The wrong lane. You have taken the incorrect lane and need to change lanes in order to remain on course. (Pretty common that one!)
Changing lanes procedure
Changing lanes roundabouts
For multi-lane roundabouts with multiple exits, generally for exits up to 180 degrees from your entry point, keep to either the left or centre lane if going straight ahead. For exits over 180 degrees, use the right hand lane. This is also dependent on road marking or road signs if applicable.
If you do need to change lanes on a roundabout, you must first check you mirrors and the applicable blind spot followed by a signal. If there is a vehicle to your side in the lane that you wish to move into, or you are simply uncertain that it is safe to move, remain in your current lane. You can then either continue round the roundabout to the exit again or take an alternative exit. You will not fail a driving test for doing this, but will fail for changing lanes dangerously.
- Read the full roundabouts tutorial for further information.
Driving in the wrong lane
It’s quite common for learner drivers to find themselves in the incorrect lane during a driving test. This could be one-way-systems, approaching roundabouts or junctions etc. The last thing you want to do is to panic and abruptly get into the lane you’re supposed to be in.
Use the correct MSM routine and the blind spot and if it is safe for you to change lanes, do so, if not, cancel any signals and remain in your current lane. Don’t slow down to let a car pass that is in the lane you wish to take as this can be dangerous for vehicles behind. The examiner will take you on an alternative route. We all make mistakes whilst driving, the difference is whether it’s a safe or dangerous mistake.
Changing lanes dual carriageways
If you are taking a driving test where a dual carriageway is close to the test centre, the likelihood is you will be driving on it. You are not likely to spend too much time on a dual carriageway so whether you need to overtake depends on the traffic and its speed at that time.
When you have joined the dual carriageway and approach a slow moving vehicle, you will be expected to make progress and overtake. The examiner will however inform you of which exit you will be taking, so only overtake if you have plenty of time to do so. The MSPSL driving routine should be implemented for overtaking and also the blind spot must be checked before signalling.
Upon checking the mirrors and the blind spot, ensure there is plenty of distance from yourself and any vehicles in the fast lane before changing lanes. Also beware of vehicles that may be approaching from behind at speed as forcing another vehicle to slow down, even if they’re driving well over the speed limit is dangerous and will fail a driving test. If in the slightest doubt that it is safe to change lanes, remain in the slow lane until you are confident it is safe or you reach your exit.
Changing lanes tips
Always use the Mirror Signal Manoeuvre routine, or one of the alternatives. Further information about these can be found in the driving routine section. Always check the blind spot of the direction you are changing lanes into before signalling and moving the car. Whatever the situation and where ever you are, if you are not completely confident it is safe to change lanes, cancel and signals if applied and remain in your current lane, even if it takes you in the wrong direction.