For learner drivers, changing lanes can seem very daunting. You need to control the car at the same time as estimating the distance and speed of oncoming traffic in the lane into which you want to move. Sometimes it involves a quick decision, although as a learner, you feel safer when you can take time to work out exactly what you need to do.
But if you follow these few steps, and always remember the golden rule of ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ (MSM), you will soon be confident about changing lanes safely.
Probably the two commonest reasons for needing to change lane are when you’re overtaking, and when you’ve got yourself into the wrong lane. You will also sometimes need to change lane at a roundabout or as you approach a junction. The process for each scenario is basically similar.
When you want to overtake, check the distance and speed of oncoming traffic. If you aren’t sure, wait. When the lane into which you want to move is clear, go through your MSM routine, and then move out. Never overtake in the direction of oncoming traffic near a bend, or in any situation where your vision of the lane is not completely clear.
Changing lanes on a dual carriageway
There are times when you will want to change lanes when driving on a dual carriageway, but it’s important to remember where your exit point is. Far better to stay in a slower lane than get stuck in an outside lane and miss your exit. When you do change lanes, remember that in addition to your MSM procedure, you also need to be confident about assessing the position and speed of traffic in the faster lane. This is a skill which develops with practice, so if you’re in any doubt, stay in the slower lane until a clear space is evident.
The wrong lane
This is really common, even for the most experienced drivers. The first rule here is not to panic and suddenly change lanes without warning. Use exactly the same procedure as above; if the lane is not clear, cancel your signal and stay where you are. It’s far safer to go on to the next exit or junction than to change lanes without taking due care. If you are in a central lane at a roundabout when you need an exit lane, you can always go right around the roundabout and start again.
By following these few simple rules, and always remembering your MSM routine, you will soon find yourself confident about how and when to change lanes safely.