When a driver travels on a multi-lane road, he or she has the benefit of choosing a lane that’s moving at a speed they find comfortable. But on the downside, they must deal with the dangers of changing lanes when necessary or reacting to other drivers’ lane changes.
Help your fleet drivers understand the factors that contribute to lane-changing crashes so they can take the necessary steps to avoid a collision while switching lanes.
Aggressive Driving Leads to Unsafe Driving Behavior
Changing lanes frequently is just one of many aggressive driving habits that is on the rise. A more competitive business environment often causes people to drive more aggressively.
Heavier workloads as well as an increase in localized business travel, have drivers trying to get from point A to point B faster.
That aggressive behavior often prompts unsafe driving behaviors — like switching lanes without first looking to see if it’s safe. Drivers often start moving into another lane at the same time as they’re looking, instead of looking carefully first.
Crashes also can result when motorists misjudge the distance or speed of vehicles in other lanes. You think you have enough room, but the other vehicle is closer than you realize or is moving faster than you realize. If there is any doubt as to how close another vehicle is or how fast it’s traveling, stay in your lane and wait for the other driver to pass.
Distracted Driving Can Cause Lane-Changing Crashes
A lack of awareness of your surroundings is a common reason for crashes that occur when changing lanes. Drivers tend to focus forward — the direction they are heading — when they drive. Many motorists don’t make it a habit to check their mirrors on a rotating basis, so they’re not aware of what’s happening around them.
Sometimes that lack of awareness results from driver distraction. Distraction behind the wheel is an increasing problem and it’s contributing to crashes that happen when drivers are changing lanes.
Anything that takes your focus from driving — such as talking on the phone, eating, checking directions, or changing a music station — will keep you from being fully aware of your surroundings on the road.
There’s a lot going on in the vehicle that can distract a driver not only physically, but also mentally. Remind your drivers to never multi-task when behind the wheel.
Poor Planning Leads to Dangerous Lane Changes
A lack of planning while on the road also can lead to unsafe lane changes. A driver driving on a highway may not be thinking ahead to when they need to exit. They realized too late that they needed to exit the road, so they cut over to the right lane at the last minute.
Even failing to position your mirrors properly before you start to drive can contribute to lane-changing crashes. Many motorists don’t have their side-view mirrors adjusted to maximize their view, and that can expand a driver’s blind spots and increase the odds of a crash.
Drivers often have their mirrors adjusted too far in, so they see too much of their own vehicle and not enough of the other lane. Even professional drivers need to be reminded to adjust mirrors properly so that it expands the view and they’re able to see other vehicles sooner.
Safety Strategies to Prevent Collisions
Many fleet drivers cover thousands of miles on multi-lane roads annually. That’s why it’s important that they understand how to change lanes safely. Here are several safe driving strategies to share that will help your drivers avoid crashes when switching lanes:
- Adjust your mirrors. Well-adjusted side-view mirrors expand your view of other lanes and help reduce the size of your blind spots.
- Stay focused. Inattention while changing lanes can lead to disaster. Never attempt to change lanes while distracted by anything that is taking your focus off the driving task.
- Look first. Take the time to check your surroundings thoroughly before you change lanes. Check your side-view and rear-view mirrors, and then look over your shoulder (right shoulder when moving to the right, left shoulder when moving to the left) before you begin to move out of your lane.
- Use good judgment. What it says on your mirrors is true: objects really may be closer to you than they appear in the mirror. If a vehicle in the next lane appears relatively close in your mirror, wait until it passes before attempting to change lanes.
- Always signal. Use your turn signal before changing lanes — not after you’ve already started to move into another lane — so other motorists know your intentions in advance.
- Stay cautious. There are certain times when it’s never safe to change lanes: when pedestrians are nearby and when you’re at or approaching a traffic signal.
- Don’t rush. It’s common for motorists to change lanes and then abruptly cut in front of the other driver. Wait until you can see the other car entirely in your rear-view mirror before moving into their lane, so you leave enough clearance.
- Be patient. Don’t jump from lane to lane in an effort to make up for lost time in traffic. A better approach: leave early for your workday, allowing extra time for traffic or other problems.
- Plan ahead. If you’re on a highway and you know you need to exit soon, don’t wait until the last minute to move to the right lane. Anticipate your lane change in advance and make your move well ahead of the exit to avoid cutting off other drivers.
How to Adjust Mirrors
Here’s one final “how to” to share with your drivers. It may seem rudimentary, but setting mirrors can become a rote exercise — and many drivers don’t realize they are doing it wrong.
When properly set, your side mirrors can give you a better view when changing lanes by reducing your blind spots. To adjust your mirrors properly, sit in the driver’s seat, lean your left cheek against the left door, and adjust your left side-view mirror until you can barely see your vehicle in the mirror. Then lean to the right until you can look down the center line of your vehicle and adjust your right side-view mirror until you can barely see your own vehicle in the mirror.
Equipping a driver with a better understanding and a refresher on the use of mirrors and their adjustment is a safe driving practice of a proactive safety culture.