Are You An Annoying Lane Changer?
As drivers, it always seems like the lane beside us is moving quicker -- especially when commuting during rush hour.
A number of years ago I did a piece for a television show called The Fifth Estate. In this piece I had to drive from downtown Toronto, up around the top of the city, and then back to downtown changing lanes as often as I thought I could to gain ground. In a one-hour drive, I made 60 lane changes while the other driver made only 20 and I arrived four minutes ahead of the other driver. So obviously changing lanes doesn’t gain much, I probably annoyed every driver around me, and it increased my chances of having a crash.
Watching a driver darting in and out of traffic is really annoying and it also upsets the flow of traffic as it causes other vehicles around them to have to apply their brakes when they may not have needed to. If one person applies the brakes, it goes all the way down the line until eventually the traffic in that lane comes to a stop. It is often referred to as the “rubber band” effect. Changing lanes constantly also increases the anxiety or stress level of the driver doing the lane changing and that of the drivers around them.
Our perception is that if we are stopped and the other lane is moving, then they must be gaining more ground. So then we decide to get into the lane that is moving and we are watching our mirror for an opening to dart into. This can result in a dangerous situation as other cars are approaching at different speeds from us.
Changing lanes while driving is one of the most dangerous things we do while driving and this is where it can happen when we are traveling at higher speeds. For example, consider driving on a major highway that has more than three lanes and you are driving in the slow lane, but you decide you want to move into the center lane. You put your turn signal on, do a shoulder check see that the lane is clear, and start to make your move. What you potentially didn’t see is that there was a car in the fast lane deciding to move over to the center lane at the same time you were moving over to the center lane. Or a motorcycle approaching from between vehicles. Your peripheral vision is very important to avoiding this potential catastrophe.
The only time changing lanes does actually gain you some time or position is if you are in a NASCAR race! In this case, who cares which lane you’re in as long as it’s the fastest one and hopefully you’re leading it. You may be annoying the other drivers around you and you may crash but that’s the nature of the beast when you’re in competition to win. When we are driving on the streets to our destinations we should try and keep in mind that it’s not all about us and that we should be courteous to other drivers on the road.
We all have to share the space.
Race car driver, educator, safety advocate, TV personality, Kelly Williams started racing cars at 17 years old and continued to race for 15 years. Now she works in the automotive industry, teaching women about taking care of their vehicles. She also teaches performance driver training with BMW as well as other manufacturers, keeps busy as a spokesperson for Be Car Care Aware, hosts ladies' Car Care clinics across Canada, and has recently launched a new consumer website www.KellysGarage.ca
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