Lane Etiquette

Lane etiquette is something I feel quite strongly about and feel that many accidents could be avoided if people respected a few simple unwritten rules. No one is perfect on the road and there are always exceptions to these rules, but being conscious of them can go a long way.

Two lane highways are simple and I feel that most drivers understand how they work. The right lane is for driving and the left lane is for passing. Of course, certain high volume traffic situations lead to both lanes being fairly crowded, in this case, you should be in the lane which best matches your cruising speed. If that happens to be the left and faster traffic approaches to the rear you should move to the right lane when it’s safe to do so in order to let them pass.

Highways with three lanes is where things get complicated for many drivers. I’ve spoken to a few and this is what many of them thought and really what I see on a daily basis: the right lane is for merging, the middle lane for driving and the left lane for passing. This is incorrect. I will now explain the correct way to travel on a three-lane highway in moderate to high volume traffic situations.

The on-ramp or acceleration lane is of course for accelerating, in order for drivers to merge into the right lane at a speed that matches the flow of traffic.

The right lane is usually the slowest lane, if you’re on a slow cruise and it happens to be Sunday afternoon, this is probably the correct lane for you. If you like to travel slightly under or at the speed limit this is usually also the best lane to be in. It is the simplest and safest. You are only exposed on one side, you are the farthest from oncoming traffic and you can’t be passed on the right, we will see why that’s important later on. When in this lane and approaching an acceleration lane, check for approaching vehicles, if there happens to be one and you can safely move to the middle lane, do so. If the middle lane is too crowded, remain in your lane and let the merging vehicle make the decision to either speed up or slow down. He yields to you.

The middle lane is the most complicated and misunderstood lane. Traffic in this lane should be moving faster than the traffic on the right. If you are in the middle lane and someone approaches you from the rear at a higher speed and the right lane is clear, you should move over. Most drivers in the middle lane believe that it is always up to the faster approaching vehicle to pass them on the left. This is only true if the right lane is too crowded to make a safe lane change. When slow moving drivers stay in the middle lane, it has the effect of bogging down traffic as faster drivers accumulate behind them and try to pass on either side.

Also, on most three-lane highways, trucks are not allowed to be in the left lane, which means if you are being tailed by a truck, you should move over, the reason he isn’t passing you in the left lane and is blinding you with his lights is because he isn’t allowed to. The middle lane is also the most dangerous, as you are exposed on both sides and more people tend to cut in and out of this lane.

Finally, the left lane is for traffic moving the fastest. If you are driving at speed and approaching a slower vehicle in this lane, do not pass them on the right. The correct thing to do is to slow down and wait behind them until they make a proper lane change. Most highway accidents happen when faster vehicles move to pass on the right while the slower vehicle makes a simultaneous lane change.

This whole post comes down to two things, it’s very simple, yield to faster moving traffic and never pass on the right.

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