Merging Safety Tips

In Tennessee, people reported 393,912 car accidents in 2017. A breakdown of the accident causes for Davidson County shows that “improper lane changing,” “failure to signal intentions,” and “failure to keep in proper lane” caused almost 4,200 accidents in 2017. These are all common mistakes drivers make when trying to merge lanes. The best thing you can do for yourself and others as a driver is learning how to merge safely on Nashville’s highways. Follow these tips to start.

Pay Attention to Roadway Patterns

The design of the roadway serves to help drivers merge, turn, stop, and yield the right of way when applicable. Pay close attention to the pattern of the road you’re on for clues on how to safely merge. Merging onto the interstate, for example, you’ll see yards of dotted lines separating the lanes until they merge into one. Use this time to gain enough speed to safely merge with existing traffic (at about 60 miles per hour) by the end of the dotted lines. In a roundabout, on the other hand, you will yield right of way to circulating traffic before merging into the circle.

Use Your Mirrors

It’s dangerous to turn your head to look behind you while merging. A vehicle in front of you could hit its brakes without you noticing. Instead, utilize your side and rear-view mirrors to check for vehicles before merging lanes. Make sure your mirrors are clean and not cracked before driving.

If your mirrors have blind spots, glance quickly over your shoulder at the place you plan on merging to check for hidden vehicles. Keep your eyes on the road in front of you as much as possible, scanning to see if you’re safe using your peripheral vision. Always adjust your mirrors while you’re still parked, before you start your trip.

Drive an Appropriate Speed

Cutting someone off is not merging. Merging is a slow, controlled process in which all parties understand what’s going on. Merging too quickly is a recipe for a rear-end collision – as well as possible road rage from the other driver. The best way to merge safely is to reduce your speed. Slow down and put your turn signal on, letting the other drivers know your intent. Prepare your actions as far in advance as possible to avoid needing to quickly merge to make your exit.

On the flip side, you cannot merge if you’re traveling too slowly. Slowing down too much or coming to a complete stop can impede traffic and make the drivers behind you angry. It can also force the vehicles in the lane you’re merging into to brake or stop – something not all drivers will be willing to do. Instead, match your speed to the vehicles in the destination lane. That will make the merge as smooth and painless as possible for all involved.

Use Turn Signals

Always let others around you know your intent when merging, using your turn signals. One of the major reasons merge-related car accidents happen is because other drivers had no idea the driver was going to enter the lane. Put your turn signals on the moment you realize you need to merge. That way, other drivers can slow down, speed up, or move over to let you in. Using your turn signal is the law as well as a common courtesy to other drivers.

Make Sure You Have Room

Before squeezing yourself into a gap that’s too small to accommodate your vehicle, make sure there is plenty of room between the two vehicles traveling in the other lane. Never assume a vehicle will slow down or speed up to let you in. It is not their responsibility. It is your responsibility to make sure there’s enough room before merging. If the action will force other drivers out of the way, don’t do it. You can always take the next exit if you miss your chance to merge safely.