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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Choosing the right lane a key decision

January 21, 2011

By Steve Wallace, Victoria Times Colonist January 21, 2011

It’s important to stay in the right lane when on multi-lane highways, except when passing.

Why are there so many misunderstandings concerning lane choice on our highways and byways?

The lack of lane choices, in the early days of automobile travel, made vehicle positioning very simple. Drivers simply followed the driver ahead of them.

With the increased number of motorists on the road, it became necessary to build more lanes to accommodate them. Multi-lane roads have been a cause for misunderstandings ever since.

Traffic laws, the laws of physics and simple courtesy now dictate behaviour on both rural and urban roads, as well as freeways.

Professional drivers choose lanes that will give them the best escape route. They are much more aware of space than speed, when it comes to lane choice. Here are some general tips to choosing the proper lane in every situation.

Choose to drive in the right lane, when two lanes going the same direction are available. This will reduce the likelihood of a head-on collision, with a buffer lane between your car and oncoming traffic.

If there are several pedestrians using the sidewalk or shoulder of the road, it may be prudent to be in the left lane. This will create a space cushion between your car and the pedestrians, who are much more vulnerable to serious injury, or worse, in a collision with a vehicle.

The left lane can be a good choice when there are many hidden intersections or parked cars on the right side of the road. The right lane is often preferred when traffic has the potential to be held up by a left turn. Always be prepared to alter your lane position when situations change and circumstances dictate.

When there are three lanes going in the same direction in an urban area, it is best to choose the middle lane. This will allow for an escape to either side. It will also give drivers the opportunity to set up a blocker system at dangerous intersections.

Wherever possible, try to have vehicles to the right and left when going through the intersection. This will eliminate the threat of primary impact in a T-bone crash, which is among the deadliest on our roads.

If there is a wide grassy median on either side, it might be better to be in the immediate left lane or right lane to allow for escape. Try to avoid travel beside a concrete barrier, which will only box you in with each passing vehicle. Use the spaces to your advantage, whichever lane you choose.

When travelling on the freeway, or multiple-lane rural roads, only use the furthest left lane going your direction to pass other vehicles. It is the law in most jurisdictions and simple courtesy everywhere. There is nothing more frustrating than a slowpoke in the fast lane. It causes drivers to pass on the right, holds up traffic, and is the reason for some incidents of road rage. Surprisingly, in several provinces, including B.C., there is no law that designates lane speed unless a sign is posted that states “slower traffic keep right” or “keep right except to pass” or other regulatory signs of this nature.

It is proper to move to the left lane to help traffic entering the highway. The “merge” sign means that drivers on the freeway should make way for those entering. It is different from the “yield” sign, which means a stop may be necessary to accommodate traffic already on the highway.

Drivers should use spaces to determine lane choice. They should reduce risk by driving in the lane that best suits the situation. Drivers who drive with space-cushion theory are better for the experience. Try it; it works.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and the Interior of B.C.

stevedwallace@shaw.ca

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