How to Safely Change Lanes While Driving

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Multi lane roads can be quite scary for learner drivers. To practice changing lanes, it’s a good idea to start on the quietest one you can find at a relatively quiet time.  You may have to arrange this with your driving instructor.

The basic principles of changing lanes are the same as for any other change of direction or turn, except that you’re usually not going to slow right down or stop during the procedure. You need to make sure you’re going the same speed as the lane you’re moving into.

Changing Lanes Procedure

When you are changing lanes you need to be very aware of what is going on all around you. That is ahead, behind, alongside and what’s coming up beside you.

  1. When you decide you want to change lanes, scan ahead to see there is nothing up ahead that would make that a bad idea. e.g. a queue of stopped traffic.
  2. Then do your standard 3 step routine
    • Check your mirror
    • Signal
    • Check your blind spot
  3. If there is no gap, still signal. Other drivers need to know what you’re intending to do.  Give them time to react to your signal and make a gap.
  4. Keep on scanning ahead and re-check your blind spot before you change lanes. If the gap is okay, merge decisively, but smoothly into it. Drift gently across, don’t swerve. Maintain the speed with the flow of other vehicles in the new lane and re check your mirrors.

On expressways or other arterial roads that might have more than 2 lanes going in one direction, you also have to watch the cars in other lanes aren’t trying to move into the gap that you’re going into. If you need to change lanes in order to turn left or right, or for any other purpose, change lanes well in advance to give yourself plenty of time to turn with safety.

The key things to practice and master in changing lanes are:

  • picking the gap to move into,
  • not moving in too close to either the car in front of or behind you and
  • making sure you check over your shoulder before you move into the lane.

Road Rules

With regard to the law when changing lanes, which includes what is required in your driving test, the following must be adhered to when changing from one lane to another:

  • only change lanes when it is safe to do so
  • give way to any vehicle travelling in the other lane in the same direction
  • give a change of direction signal, giving sufficient warning to other road users before changing lanes.

For more information on road rules governing lanes in South Australia, please refer to the SA Government website.

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