Greetings, PassMeFastrologers! It's that time of the month where we break down basic driving skills into simple how-to guides to help you understand them better and, hopefully, make your learning journey easier. This month, we're honing in on one of the fundamentals of driving: changing lanes safely. In this guide, we're going to walk you through the main steps involved in changing lanes safely, so that you'll be able to do so without breaking a sweat.
To make it even easier for you, we've also added a step-by-step video tutorial, an exclusive PassMeFast PDF guide and an FAQ section!
Table of contents
Though it might seem obvious to point out, we’re going to walk you through the main situations in which you might need to change lanes when driving. We’ll also throw in some handy words of wisdom so that you’re ready to tackle anything that comes your way!
Lane changing explained
If you’re driving on a dual carriageway or motorway and end up stuck behind a slower moving vehicle, you could choose to change lanes in order to overtake it. When overtaking, you should only take action if it is safe and legal to do so.
You will need to take extra care when overtaking at night, as poor visibility can make it difficult to determine speed and distance. If you’re overtaking on a motorway, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you have safely overtaken the other vehicle.
You should not drive on the hard shoulder unless it’s in an emergency, or you’re directed to do so by the police.
On the approach to a junction, it’s vital that you’re in the right lane—the one that corresponds with the direction you intend to go in.
If you’re making a right turn, for example, you’ll need to be in the right-hand lane. The early bird gets the worm here, however. If you’re too late when changing lanes, you might not make it in time for the turn at the junction. So keep your eyes peeled!
On dual carriageways and motorways
When it comes to dual carriageways and motorways, the main reason you’ll find yourself changing lanes (other than for overtaking) is so that you can get to the right exit.
As you’re probably aware, to ensure you have enough time to make it to the right lane for your chosen exit, you’ll need to plan ahead. If you leave it too late, you might end up unable to change lanes due to heavy traffic.
In order to take the right exit according to your intended destination, you’ll need to change lanes on a roundabout. Typically, if you want to take an exit on the first half of the roundabout (up to 180 degrees), you’ll need to stick to the left or centre lane.
If you’re taking an exit on the second half (over 180 degrees), you’ll need to switch to the right hand lane. If you don’t think it’s safe to change lanes, or you’ve mistimed it or gotten mixed up, continue on in your current lane—you’ll be able to go around the roundabout once more to reach the right exit.
In the wrong laneIf you’re a new driver especially, you might realise that you’re in the wrong lane all of a sudden. As tempting as it can be to give in to panic and rush into changing lanes, you need to remain calm. Wait and see if an opportunity to change to the right lane makes itself known. If it doesn’t, you’ll carry on to the next exit or junction and find another way to get back to the right direction.
So, now you know the situations in which you might need to change lanes. The next question is, how do you go about it? Well, the trick to changing lanes safely is the simple, yet fundamental, MSM routine—also known as Mirrors, Signal and Manoeuvre.
It doesn't matter why you're changing lanes or where you're changing lanes, you need to follow the MSM routine to the letter in order to stay safe.
② Check mirrors and blindspots
③ Signal your intentions
④ Change lanes
|You should never weave between lanes, straddle lanes or try to change lanes all of a sudden. You need to follow the above steps to the letter in order to keep yourself and other road users safe when changing lanes.
If you're struggling to properly visualise the steps we've taken you through in the section above, or you're simply more of a visual learner, we've found the perfect video tutorial for you! In the video below, an instructor will walk you through the MSM routine and give you real-life scenarios in which you might need to change lanes safely.
It's just under ten minutes long, but if you're looking to master this skill, it's worth watching the whole way through.
To make it easier for you to revise the main skills needed to pass the driving test, we've created our own PDF guide on how to change lanes safely which walks you through all of the steps that we've outlined. It could be worth reading up on before you go out on a driving lesson or a practise run with a family member/friend.
When changing lanes, it's important that you check all of your mirrors and blindspots to ensure that it's clear enough. You'll know it's safe to change lanes if there's a large gap in traffic that will give you plenty of time to signal and manoeuvre. If you spot a fast-moving vehicle, and you're not sure if you'd be able to change lanes in time, you should remain in your lane until it's clear.
An unsafe lane change is when you end up forcing other road users to brake harshly or change lanes in order to avoid colliding with you. The act of you changing lanes should not affect the flow of traffic or endanger other road users.
Whilst you technically don't have to signal when the roads are clear, you might want to get into the habit of doing so just in case you miss a road user when checking your mirrors and blindspots. It's always better to be safe than sorry. Besides which, it's a good habit to get into for the driving test—your examiner will be keeping an eye out to make sure you're making your observations and signalling correctly.
If you're taking driving lessons with a DVSA-approved instructor, it's likely that you'll start learning Mirrors, Signal and Manoeuvre in your first few lessons. Once you've gotten past the cockpit drill and the clutch, you'll start driving around quiet, residential roads. During this time, your instructor will start teaching you how to correctly follow the MSM routine.