Negotiating highways and interchanges is a critical driving skill for any driver because of the danger and risk associated with driving on highways and interchanges without proper safety knowledge. Highways are the site of the most severe automobile accidents, due to congestion and high highway traffic speeds. In general, you are put in the most risk when you are changing lanes on a highway, driving on a highway interchange, and when traffic on the highway stops or slows down unexpectedly. You can help reduce this risk by learning about proper safety procedures during this critical time.
When you are entering a highway, you need to ensure that:
- You do not turn onto an exit ramp; exit ramps are marked with DO NOT ENTER, ONE WAY, or WRONG WAY signs.
- If you must use a weaving lane, or a lane between an entrance and exit ramp, remember to yield to the exiting driver.
- You look over your shoulder and in your rearview mirror as you enter the highway—look for a gap in traffic and speed up accordingly
- You remember to speed up appropriately as soon as possible to avoid putting yourself and other drivers at risk.
Once you have made it to the highway, you will need to keep a close watch on your speed and the speed of the traffic around you. Many highway accidents are due to unexpected slowdowns in traffic, so it is very important that you keep an eye on the traffic in front of you in order to spot any such slowdowns ahead of time when possible. One of the most dangerous moments when driving on a highway occurs when you are changing lanes. The following are some key things to remember when changing lanes on a highway:
- You should only change your lane one lane at a time–do not attempt to cross 4 lanes of traffic at once.
- Always engage your turn signal before you change lanes to give other drivers time to notice it and react accordingly.
- Always look over your shoulder and in your rearview mirror before changing lanes to ensure that there is enough space for your car to maneuver.
Two important but often overlooked risks when driving on the highway are the risk of fatigue or what is coined “highway hypnosis,” which occur when you are too tired to drive safely and when you are “hypnotized” by staring ahead at cars in front of you on the highway that you forget to routinely scan the road for other potential dangers. These can be avoided by exiting the highway and resting at rest stops and by frequenting reminding yourself to pay attention to all of your surroundings.
Driving on the highway can be quite dangerous and risky. However, if you remember to follow the above advice and keep yourself alert and reactive at all times, your journey on the highway or interchange will be a safer one.