Tips for Driving on the Freeway to Calm Your Fears
Driving on the freeway is scary, especially if it’s your first time. For that reason, it is important for every driver to have a list of tips for driving on the freeway. As with any other part of driving, the experience is what will give you the most knowledge and help you to calm your fears.
From knowing how to check your blind spots to keeping yourself calm, this article lists our top tips for highway or freeway driving. Prior to that, we’d also share with you the important things you’d need to address prior to a long drive.
Before Heading Out
The following tips are things to remember to do before you get onto the highway. When you have a plan, you’ll be far more comfortable getting behind the wheel, and these are the best things to make sure you do.
1. Develop a Plan
Having a plan at your disposal is one of the best ways to stop yourself from being frightened before merging onto the highway, as you’ll know what to expect. We highly recommend looking at traffic reports before heading out, as this can give you an idea of how many cars will be on the road at that time.
For someone who is nervous about freeway driving, you’ll want to choose a day of time that is the least congested. You can easily drive on the highway at any time during the day or night, but eventually, you will need to get experience with other cars on the road. However, for your first couple of times, you’ll want to opt for a time of day when there are very few cars.
2. Watch for Weather
Getting up to the speeds needed for freeway driving is nerve-wracking enough without also having to worry about weather conditions. When you decide to get out onto the freeway, you’ll want to make sure the weather is bright, clear, and dry. There’s no need to make the process more difficult for you by deciding to drive on a rainy or foggy day.
3. Have One Passenger
This is a tip that also applies to when you learn how to drive regardless of where you are, as you’re not going to want to overwhelm yourself when you go onto the freeway for the first time.
There should only be two people in your car, including yourself, and the passenger should be a fully licensed driver that you trust and makes you comfortable. If possible, consider going onto the freeway for the first time with your driving instructor.
You’ll want to make sure your passenger can relay information and tips to you calmly and concisely to where you won’t get nervous. Also, you surely won’t want any children in the vehicle as you will be more concentrated on their well-being than what you’re doing on the road.
4. Turn Off Distractions
It’s easy to say that driving on the highway for the first time is going to require a lot of concentration. Not only will you have to be fully aware of where other cars are on the road, but you’re also going to need to listen for sirens and the instructions of your passenger. Avoid any distractions, including the car radio and your smartphone.
It’s better if you silence your phone and stow it away in a compartment that is unreachable from the driver’s seat. If music calms you, then turn it down to a volume that is barely audible so that you don’t find yourself focusing more on the music than your driving.
5. Establish a Final Destination
You’ve likely been on the same freeway hundreds of other times as a passenger, and even if you think you know it like the back of your hand, we highly recommend establishing a final destination. In this way, you won’t have to worry about making sudden movements to try to get into an exit lane at the last minute.
It’s highly recommended that you choose a destination that could serve as a reward; for example, an ice cream parlor that you can your instructor can enjoy after your “freeway driving lesson.”
Not only will you be more motivated to drive on the freeway if you know there’s a reward at the end, but you’ll also be able to plan your trip in advance. You’ll know exactly what exit to take and when you should be merging into the correct lanes so there won’t be any surprises.
Tips for Driving on the Freeway
Now that you have all of the pre-driving tips down, it’s time to consider what you can do to help make driving much simpler on your nerves. It’s important to know that you’re not the only driver who fears the freeway, as there are plenty who do.
With the appropriate knowledge and defensive driving skills, you’ll easily be able to navigate even the most congested roadways.
1. Maintain Speed and Distance
The two most important things to be aware of when you’re on the freeway is your speed and distance. You might be tempted to drive under the speed limit, though this can be just as dangerous as speeding. Ideally, stick to the actual speed limit of the freeway, as this is what will help to make sure you’re moving with the flow of traffic.
The second piece to remember is that you need to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicles in front of you. There should be at least six seconds worth of space between your front bumper and the rear bumper of the car in front of you. This will give you enough time to slam on your breaks, if necessary, without having to worry about a collision.
It’s very important that you don’t allow yourself to speed on the freeway, even if the cars around you are seemingly going faster than you are. Speeding is one of the main causes of car accidents, with 31% of all accidents in 2007 occurring because of it. Allow the people around you to risk their lives while you pay close attention to your surroundings so that you can arrive at your destination safely.
2. Merging Tricks
Merging is by far one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of driving on the freeway, especially in places such as Los Angeles where people seemingly never use their indicator. However, if you maintain six seconds or an entire car length between you and the vehicle in front of you, you won’t have to worry about most merging drivers.
If you’re concerned about a particular driver and how fast they are going, you can easily change lanes. An important merging trick for you, as a driver, is to make sure you adjust your speed properly so that you can merge into lanes.
You’ll want to accelerate quickly so that you can enter the flow of traffic properly and safely. By paying close attention to the vehicles behind and in front of you, you’ll be able to speed up so that you can get onto the freeway with ease.
3. Know the Purpose of Lanes
Even though it’s not written on signs on the freeway, there are common knowledge elements to every lane on the freeway. By following their purpose, you’ll be able to have the most stress-free driving experience possible. For example, the far-right lane is typically reserved for people who are exiting and entering the freeway.
Remember that the far left lane is reserved for passing only, even if you might see cars driving in that lane for the duration of their trip. It can be highly frustrating as another driver to have someone in the left lane driving at or below the speed limit when you are trying to pass another vehicle. Avoiding this lane, unless it is necessary, will help you to avoid road rage and honking horns.
It’s best if you’re able to stick to the middle lane of the highway and continue to maintain the correct speed limit. From the middle lane, on a three-lane freeway, you’ll easily be able to merge to the exit or passing lanes if necessary. On a four-lane freeway, if you’re exiting soon but not right now, you can merge into the second last lane on the left.
4. Avoid Lane Changes
Unless it’s necessary, there’s no need for you to repeatedly change lanes, as this will only increase your anxiety because you’ll constantly be checking your blind spot and trying to weave in and out of traffic.
For your first few trips, it’s better if you make driving as simple as possible by sticking to the same spot on the freeway. However, if you know that a lane change is necessary, make sure you use your indicators to let other drivers know your intentions before making any movements.
5. Know What’s Ahead
It’s very important for you to pay attention to what the vehicle ahead of you is doing, but you will also want to keep an eye on any activity that is well ahead of you, up to 20 seconds away.
This will give you an idea of whether traffic is coming to a stop or if the flow of traffic will remain at a reasonable level. As a great way to prepare yourself for what’s ahead, it’s recommended to prepare yourself for any hazards.
6. Blind Spots
One of the trickiest parts of driving is understanding blind spots and knowing how to avoid them. All drivers have specific areas of their vision where they can’t see perfectly, and knowing how to work with yours and avoid other drivers’ blind spots is essential.
If you need to check your blind spot, you’ll need to quickly look over your shoulder, as it’s likely your mirrors won’t show you everything. In terms of other drivers’ blind spots, you’ll want to make sure you don’t make any sudden movements if another driver can’t see you clearly.
7. Learn HOV Lanes
More freeways in the world are adding a special extra lane, known as an HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lane. These can be used if you have two or more drivers in the vehicle. These are rarely occupied by a lot of vehicles, which makes them ideal for driving during rush hour if you’re carpooling.
However, driving in HOV lanes take some experience, similar to freeway driving. In HOV lanes, drivers tend to assume they can go well above the speed limit, which is certainly not the case. It could be better to reserve driving in this lane until you have more experience; otherwise, you might get overwhelmed easily.
If you decide to use one, you’ll need to follow the below tips:
- Always merge at the dotted line
- You cannot exit or enter an HOV lane at a solid line
- Maintain the speed limit
- Always drive with two or more passengers in the lane
- Check your blind spots to stay aware of other drivers when entering and exiting
Tips for Emergencies
Even though we’d all like to assume that every freeway driving experience will be quick, simple, and safe, that is not always the case. In an emergency, you should always know what to do to keep you and your passengers safe.
1. Allow Emergency Vehicles to Pass
If you live in an area that is prone to accidents, you’re going to see several emergency vehicles over your driving career. If you hear sirens, it is important that you safely use your mirrors to determine where they are approaching from, as this will tell you where you need to move your vehicle.
For example, if you are in the middle lane with an emergency vehicle approaching behind you, merge into another lane until they have safely passed.
2. Know When to Pull Over
Drivers who are dealing with an emergency in their car should always remember to pull over the shoulder if they have to stop their vehicle. If there isn’t a shoulder, you will need to take the nearest exit before stopping your car.
There is absolutely no reason as to why you should stop your vehicle in the middle of the highway, as it will endanger yourself and everyone around you.
When you have pulled onto the shoulder of the highway, immediately put your hazard lights on such that approaching vehicles can see that you have stopped and are out of the way of traffic. This is especially important if you are traveling at night.
3. How to Pass Emergency Vehicles
In situations where you have approached the spot of the accident or if a car has been pulled over, it is your responsibility to give emergency vehicles a wide berth while you are passing. Not only is this common courtesy, but it is also the law, as one in 10 police officer deaths are because of being hit by a vehicle.
If an emergency vehicle is stopped in the lane beside you, merge into the opposite lane to safely pass, and then you can merge back into your original lane.
4. Never Back Up
When you’re starting, you're likely going to miss an exit or two on the freeway, especially as you’ll be traveling at a higher rate of speed. With that said, you cannot pull a U-turn or decide to back up on the highway as it is incredibly dangerous and illegal.
This is even true if you are pulled onto the shoulder, as backing up anywhere on a freeway can get you ticketed and is dangerous. As an alternative, pull off at the next exit and take the highway in the opposite direction if you miss your exit.
Similar to any other part of driving, the more hands-on experience you get, as well as the more driving on the freeway tips and tricks you learn, the more you will find highway driving as your favorite way to get from point A to point B.
With these tips for driving on the freeway, you can help to quell your nerves and get more experience so you can become a more confident driver.