Unsafe merges and lane changes are common causes of catastrophic car accidents in California. Thousands of people get into accidents – many of which are fatal – while trying to merge. Merging onto the freeway is especially dangerous. The speeds of merging vehicles often do not match the speeds of vehicles already on the freeway. At busy times of day, a gap in traffic may not be easy to find or fill. A few tips can help you learn how to safely and easily merge onto freeways, even during rush hour.
Reach an Appropriate Speed
Your speed should match the flow of traffic as much as possible when you merge onto the freeway. Other drivers should not have to slam on their brakes to accommodate your vehicle. If traffic on the freeway is slow, do not try to merge while going too fast. You could rear-end another driver. Speed up or slow down to match the flow of traffic on the freeway before attempting to merge.
Use Your Blinker
You must yield the right-of-way to drivers already on the freeway. Do not stop your vehicle to accommodate them, however, unless absolutely necessary. Trying to merge onto the freeway from a dead stop is dangerous if the existing vehicles are traveling 60 miles per hour. Other drivers may move over or slow down to allow you to merge, if necessary. Put your blinker on 100 to 300 feet before you merge to let other drivers know your intentions. Your blinker could make your car more visible to other drivers as you try to merge.
Check Your Blind Spots
Many merge accidents happen because of blind spots. Do not rely solely on your mirrors to see surrounding traffic before a merge. Glance over your shoulder as well to check your blind spots. A vehicle could be adjacent to you but in your blind spot, posing a risk of a sideswipe accident if you try to merge. Find a gap of three to four seconds in traffic to merge. Look for the vehicle you wish to get behind, not get in front of, for the safest merge.
Do Not Cut Off Semis
Never attempt to merge in front of a semi-truck unless the truck driver intentionally slows down to let you over. Big rigs need about 525 feet to come to a complete stop, compared to about 300 feet for a standard car. Cutting off an 18-wheeler could lead to a deadly rear-end collision or override accident. The truck driver may not be able to stop in time to avoid hitting the back of your car. The trucker may also try to quickly merge to his or her left to get out of your way – potentially sideswiping other vehicles on the freeway.
Avoid Aggressive Drivers
Many drivers in Southern California are not courteous enough to slow down or let you over while merging onto the freeway. Since they lawfully have the right-of-way, do not force your vehicle in front of an oncoming car. Let speeding, weaving or aggressive drivers pass you before attempting to merge. Cutting off an aggressive driver could lead to road rage, tailgating and a disaster such as a rear-end collision.
Move Over One Lane at a Time
If you need to get into a different lane after you merge onto the freeway, do so slowly and carefully, one lane at a time. Do not try to cross the entire freeway in one maneuver. Use your turn signals, check your blind spots and make sure you have enough room to safely merge before changing lanes. Then, carefully merge into the next lane until you are in the lane you wish to reach. Keep up with the speed of surrounding traffic as you drive, merge and change lanes on a freeway. Do not hit your brakes unless you must to avoid an accident. Prepare to exit ahead of time to avoid crossing multiple lanes too abruptly.