When it goes wrong and a car pushing into your lane, it feels to you a bit like someone steeling a biscuit from a packet without asking or being offered.
A lot of drivers who have this problem fail to realize a few fundamental things. Namely:
The distance between two cars that drivers give themselves and the vehicle in front is a'safety gap'. They have estimated this distance to be a safe gap to stop should the vehicle in front come to an unexpected stop. In fact I would say that most drivers do not allow enough of a safety gap. The correct gap would be one determined by the 2 second rule (on faster roads) or approximately 2 to 4 car lengths (at the lower speeds) in dry weather.
2) It's discourteous, antagonistic and dangerous!
If by your actions you cause another driver to change speed or direction you are the obstruction and this would be viewed unfavourably by insurance companies when deciding fault or non fault. Problems occur when you enter this safety gap by:
- Pushing in
- Moving over without a thought for others
- Not looking to see if it is safe to move over
- Not signalling to move
- Just moving over because you signaled
- Not planned so you misjudge a gap and the speed of vehicles in the lane you are moving into
Things to consider
The gap you want to move into is not yours by right! You should only move over when it is considered to be safe, when all other traffic is aware of your intention and is giving way to you. Or the gap is sufficiently large enough that it would not cause another vehicle to slow behind you.
If you are pushing into a safety gap left by another driver and causing them to slow as you enter, you are exposing yourself to risky, poor driving and sometimes dangerous behaviour. You have not determined it is safe and in some instances may lead to a collision and convictions. By your actions you should not be forcing other drivers to make way for you.
Some examples of how NOT to do it!
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Plan a lane change and move over early by looking as far up the road as you can and plan early using all relevant road signage. Carrying out a lane change are much easier when traffic is not bunching up close to the slow down point. Give yourself plenty of time to plan. If you have a SatNav there is even less of an excuse for not planning early enough as the map will show junctions and roundabouts coming up that you may not be able to see yet.
2) After checking mirrors and blind spots apply your signal.
NEVER push or bully yourself into a closing gap! Drivers need time to see and assess what your intentions are. Give your signal at least a couple of flashes before moving your vehicle over and only after you are sure the vehicle behind (in the lane you want to enter) is giving way to you. If the vehicle does not give way let them pass and then try again.
If you have planned the lane change early enough you should have time for at least a couple of tries. Do not 'bully' yourself over, remember that space is NOT YOURS BY RIGHT! If you run out of time (or road) to move over then be prepared to go the wrong direction and turn around. Don't punish other drivers because of your bad planning and inconsiderate practices. Get it right next time.
3) Ask rather than take:
If you are having to change lanes in queuing traffic you probably did not plan early enough the direction you wanted to take. If this however, is unavoidable (and sometimes it is) because of poor signage on unfamiliar roads, or in rush hour when lane markings may be covered by traffic for some distance back, you should ASK for a gap to move into. Apply what I call a'Courtesy Signal'. Apply an early right or left signal (on the move) and wait until the vehicle behind gives way.
If the traffic in lanes is moving, move with it. Never stop still waiting for drivers to hold back in the lane you want to move over to holding up the traffic in the lane you are in. Drive on and if you can't change go the wrong way. This kind of behaviour causes unnecessary bunching and increases the chance of a shunt accident. Never hold traffic up behind you just because it means you might have to go the wrong way. Do not punish other drivers for your bad planning.
4) Say 'Thank you' :-)
When you are given the space to change lanes, thank the driver for their courtesy. This makes you and them feel a little better about what happened.
5) Rise above it! You are better than that!
Everyone makes mistakes. Lewis Hamilton does, Jensen Button does, police drivers do, emergency services do, the head of the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency does, you do and I do. Every day when we drive on the road we make mistakes.
We are all human. So part of changing your behaviour is not letting others change your behaviour in this way. Be prepared to give the benefit of the doubt. If your safety gap is taken discourteously by another driver. So What!? Show everyone around you are the better driver, the better person, the one in control and under control. Do this by the actions you take next. Keep calm, pull back to a safe distance and let them drive on. What is certain is that if you rise above it others will see this as dealing with the situation correctly and skilfully. Show of your driver skill by how you handle situations like this.
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Ray Seagrave ADI
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