On your mark, get set, merge!
During this summer I find myself driving on the freeway almost every day. My kids are playing a lot of baseball and that takes us to many different baseball parks within an hour’s drive away. The freeway becomes a necessity in order to let us reach our destination in a timely manner. The down side is many drivers have very little knowledge of their responsibilities while entering and driving along the freeway. How’s your freeway knowledge?
Recently, while I was traveling along the freeway, I witnessed a driver trying to enter. It was rush hour, but traffic was moving along at the speed limit and was scattered across the freeway in every lane. The driver trying to enter did very little to make space for themselves. There was a transport truck directly beside them, but plenty of space ahead of the truck. The driver trying to enter eventually drove along the shoulder and slowed to get onto the freeway. Why didn’t they accelerate in the merging lane and use the space that the truck driver gave them? Did they not realize the merging lane is where they need to increase their speed?
Merging onto a freeway/expressway/parkway has always been tricky. You need the help of drivers that are already on the freeway to let you in, and you need the skill to make room for yourself. The problem that I see is that some drivers ignore the fact that someone is entering from their right and they need space. It’s time to re-educate ourselves.
I’ve watched this happen quite often over the years. I see a driver hanging around in the right hand lane on the freeway. They pass many entrances with drivers trying to enter and they do nothing to help the maneuver become smooth. Why not? Is it because they weren’t aware of the merging driver? Is it because they don’t know what to do? Maybe both.
Let’s face it; it can be quite frustrating when someone doesn’t let you in when you’re trying to merge. I’ve seen drivers not let the merging driver in, but that driver merges in anyway. The driver on the freeway honks and yells at the driver. Why? I think if they put the shoe on the other foot it may have been an easier transition for both.
Here’s what I suggest. Look well ahead of where you are and determine if a driver will be merging onto the freeway. If you’re not taking the next exit and if possible, change lanes to give them a free lane to enter the freeway. If you’re taking the next exit, or if you can’t change lanes because of traffic, adjust speed to let them in. Sometimes you’ll have to speed up to let traffic in behind you.
Now, let’s deal with you as the merging driver. Give yourself a chance to merge safely. Keep a good following distance behind the driver in front who’s also merging onto the freeway. This helps both of you to merge between the vehicles that are already on the freeway. Keeping 3 to 4 seconds of space in front will make this happen easier. Check your mirrors and blind spot as you begin to accelerate to match the flow of traffic. Just before moving over, check your mirrors and blind spot again, just to ensure its safe. Remember that the shoulder can help if you run out of room to merge because of an unthinking driver who tries to block your merge.
The freeways have been designed to help us reach our destinations in a quicker manner, but let’s do it safely too. Common sense tells us we can’t go any faster than the driver in front of us. Increase the space around us and remember the left lanes are for faster traffic. Who knows, it could be the link to driving safely on the freeway!