Drivesmart column: Making safe lane changes

Mirror, signal, shoulder check, move.

By Tim Schewe

Mirror, signal, shoulder check, move.

These are the four steps for a successful lane change. Simple enough one would expect, until you watch what goes on around you in traffic today. This is a basic skill that a driver should be confident practicing once they have left the novice stage behind.

Unless a lane change is forced by an emergency, the first step in changing lanes is to think ahead and plan your move. Scanning well in advance for changes in traffic or anticipating your exit gives you the time to execute a lane change safely, without affecting the travel of another vehicle.

If you’ve left yourself an out, you can minimize the risk in an emergency as well.

You must signal every time you make a lane change. That signal, made before you begin to change, must be made for long enough that the drivers around you realize your intent.

The gap in traffic that you want to move into must be large enough. Ideally, you need at least a four second gap, two seconds following distance for you and two seconds following distance for the driver behind you. This assumes good driving conditions, otherwise the gap will need to be larger.

Can’t see both headlights of the vehicle behind you in the next lane in your centre rear view mirror? Don’t jam your vehicle into the space, leave your signal light on and monitor the gap.

Here’s an opportunity for the driver behind to show that they know how to share the road. Rather than speed up and put everyone at risk, drop back and allow the change. It’s a “pay it forward” moment.

Now it’s time for one last look around before you make your move. Traffic ahead of you is still moving, the gap to move into is still appropriate and there is nothing lurking in your blind spot. Do not rely on blind spot monitoring to do the job for you, a shoulder check is still required.

OK? Let’s do it! Smoothly.

Many drivers will make lane changes where it is forbidden to do so. It is illegal to make a lane change over a solid line at any time. Solid lines are marked at places like crosswalk approaches or where merging traffic needs to gauge the surroundings before moving anywhere. They say to the driver “Don’t, it’s not safe to change lanes here.”

“Tell the other drivers that it’s illegal to change lanes in an intersection” is something that I hear frequently. This is not the case in British Columbia unless it would be unsafe to make the change. A defensive driver will choose not to do this and it may also have negative consequences during a driving examination.

That’s the short course for changing lanes safely!

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

Column

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lake Flashback: Weir opens, vandalism committee established, coroner’s inquest

1980: Youbou mill maintenance man’s death deemed an accident

Cowichan Lake community steps up to support food bank

Forest Cooperative pledges $4,000 a month, Virtual Bottle Drive launched

Cowichan Valley man dies in single-vehicle collision

First responders called to Miller Road shortly after midnight on Thursday

Cowichan Valley parks and trails remain open for health and wellbeing of residents

Cowichan governments agree essential to provide residents with opportunities to enjoy the outdoors

COVID-19 death toll reaches 50 in B.C., while daily case count steadies

B.C. records 34 new cases in the province, bringing total active confirmed cases to 462

List of cancelled Cowichan Valley community events

An ongoing list of events that have been cancelled in the Cowichan Valley due to COVID-19

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

VIDEO: Community rallies around Campbell River fire victims

Emergency Social Services volunteers logged over 100 hours in first day after fire

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

Reality TV show about bodybuilders still filming in Okanagan, amid COVID-19

Five bodybuilders from across the country flew to Kelowna to move into a house for a reality TV show

B.C.’s top doctor details prescription for safe long weekend

Yes, it includes hosting an online cooking show

BC SPCA seeks help for abandoned German shepherd puppies

Donations have ‘petered out’ as doors are closed due to COVID-19

Most Read