When you plan to change lanes, turn, or enter or exit a highway, first give the proper turn signal. Using your turn signal, which is required by law, communicates your intended movement to drivers around you. Develop a good habit and use turn signals or hand signals even if no other traffic is on the road.
When you plan to turn, signal three or four seconds, 100 feet, ahead of your turn. Be aware that drivers planning to turn into your lane may not know exactly where you will turn; drivers may pull out in front of you. Be alert. After you complete the turn or lane change, be sure the turn signal stops flashing.
Maintaining a Space Cushion
Space around your vehicle gives you distance to react in emergencies and avoid a crash. Create a space cushion around your vehicle by staying in the middle of your lane. Make sure there is enough room ahead of your vehicle and behind it for other vehicles to pass or stop safely. Use the two-, three- and four-second rule to determine if you are following far enough behind the vehicle ahead of you.
Here’s how the following distance rule works:
- Glance at the vehicle ahead as it passes a fixed object, such as an overpass, sign, fence, corner or other fixed mark.
- Begin counting the seconds it takes you to reach the same place in the road.
- If you reach the mark before you have counted off two, three, or four seconds, depending on speed, you’re following too closely. Slow down and increase your following distance.
- For bad weather conditions, heavy traffic, poor pavement or if your vehicle is in poor condition, add extra seconds to increase your following distance.
Drivers need to change following distance when speed or road conditions change. Hand response time is close to a half second. Foot response time is normally three-quarters of a second. This does not take into account any delay in perception time as a result of the driver being tired, on medication, distracted, etc. Road conditions, speed, driver alertness, and even following vehicles of different weights all change the ability to stop.
Increase your following distance when driving:
- Behind a large vehicle that blocks your vision
- In bad weather or heavy traffic
- When exiting an expressway
- Behind a motorcycle or bicycle
- When being tailgated
Tailgating is when the driver behind you is following too closely. If you find yourself in this situation, do not brake suddenly. If possible, move over to another lane, or gently tap your brakes to flash your brake lights and slow down. This should encourage the tailgater to pass you or slow down.
Help the driver behind you by maintaining a safe following distance and a steady speed. Tap your brakes to warn the driver behind you when you plan to slow down or stop.