Freeway Driving In The U.S.: How To Stay Safe On The Road

There was an 18.4% increase in the number of Americans who died in motor vehicle crashes in the first half of 2021, compared to the first half of 2020, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals — highlighting the need for safe and responsible driving. Freeway driving, in particular, can be challenging for anyone as it involves merging into high-speed traffic and typically maintaining speeds of 65 mph or over, as well as dealing with large, fast-moving commercial trucks. Fortunately, by learning the proper freeway driving rules and best practices, you can avoid accidents and stay safe on the road. 

Enter and exit correctly 

A freeway entrance ramp helps you enter the freeway and merge safely with the flow of traffic. So, when entering the freeway from the ramp, always make sure you’re driving at the same speed as the vehicles traveling in the freeway’s right-side lane — otherwise you risk causing a collision. Most entrance ramps are designed to give drivers enough time to accelerate, so they enter the freeway at the right speed. If you enter the freeway at the wrong speed, surrounding drivers may need to suddenly brake, accelerate, or change lanes to prevent hitting you — so don’t be afraid to “floor it” on the ramp. And, when exiting the freeway, be sure to slow down only when you reach the exit ramp and not while you’re still on the freeway (again, to avoid causing accidents). Exit ramps are designed for deceleration and typically terminate at a traffic light or stop sign. 

Obey speed limits and road rules

According to the NHTSA’s Summary of State Speed Laws the basic speed rule on the highway “requires vehicle operators to drive at a speed that is reasonable and prudent.” So, you may find it necessary to drive slower or faster than the speed limit in some situations and it’s not uncommon for drivers to go at least 10 mph over the limit on freeways. That said, adhering to the speed limit is best practice — particularly in commercial areas where police often establish speed traps to force drivers to slow down. In addition to obeying speed limits, freeway driving involves following other standard rules, including: don’t tailgate; use the farthest left lane only for passing; and don’t drive in another vehicle’s blind spot. Always check your blind spots on busy freeways and keep an eye out for motorcyclists. Many states allow motorcyclists to lane split and drive on the shoulder in busy traffic. If your car breaks down, you should also switch on your hazard lights, use your turn signal, and move your car off the road (unless you’re unable to move it). Most often, emergency telephones are located on the right shoulder.  

Also, be mindful of commercial trucks — they commonly travel on freeways and the number of crashes involving 18-wheelers has increased over the past few years. Accidents involving trucks often result in severe injuries due to their sheer weight and size. If you do get into an accident with a truck, it’s important to work with a lawyer to protect your legal rights. The average value of 18 wheeler accident settlements varies depending on the circumstances of the accident and percentage of fault. Texas, for example, is a modified comparative negligence state, which means each driver is assigned a percentage of fault for the accident. So, if the injured individual is over 50% to blame for the accident, they won’t be able to recover any damages. If, on the other hand, they’re 50% or less to blame, they’ll be able to recover compensation in line with their proportion of fault.

Choose the right lane 

It’s also key to drive in the right lane. If you’ll be traveling at slower speeds, you need to be in the right lane. Semi-trucks, in particular, often have to stick to the right lane by law in many states as they’re large, slow-moving vehicles. So, if the passing traffic to your right is moving quicker than you, you know you’re in the wrong lane. Alternatively, if you’ll be traveling at faster speeds, you’ll need to pick the left lane. The farthest left lane, although commonly called the “fast lane”, is for passing. If you’re in the left lane, be careful not to stay there indefinitely as there’ll always be faster drivers coming up behind you. Also, if you spot a disabled vehicle, be sure to move over a lane to give them enough room. In fact, moving over is a legal requirement in many states. 

Freeway driving can be challenging for anyone, yet, with the right best practices, you can stay  safe on the road. By entering and exiting correctly, obeying speed limits, and choosing the right lane, you can ensure that you arrive safely at your final destination.

Related Posts