Study Guide: Highway Driving

derick-brown-driving-school-300x180Almost all major roadways and highways are divided into lanes. These lanes have lines on the road surface that indicate:

• Where your vehicle should travel
• The rules of the lane driving that you should follow

Choose the lane that best meets your needs for safety and getting to your destination. Drive with intention and do not leave lane changes to the last minute. Be sure to stay in the middle of any lane you are driving in.


You’re inside your vehicle and the outside rearview mirrors will show you the traffic that is behind your vehicle. They will not:

• Show you everything to the sides of your vehicle.
• Show you what is immediately beside you.
• Show you what is slightly behind you in the lane next to you.

These areas are called “blind spots”.

Blind Spots:

In every car, there are external and internal mirrors that allow you to see what is happening on the road behind you. However, these do not let you see everything that is going on behind you. The areas you can’t see are your blind spots.

Your blind spots are on your left and right and a little bit behind you so you can’t pick them up with your peripheral vision.

Blind spots are especially dangerous because when a car is in your blind spot and you turn into their lane, it is a sure accident. To check your blind spot, simply look behind you. Do it well enough so you can tell what you are looking at, but quickly enough that you don’t miss anything happening in front of you.

Shoulder checks:

Because of blind spots, you must do shoulder checks, in addition, to mirror checks immediately before changing lanes.

To properly do a shoulder check, quickly glance back over your shoulder through the rear side windows in the direction you intend to move. This helps you to see the area you will not be able to see in your mirrors.

Always turn around to check your blind spots and check your mirrors (all your mirrors) when changing lanes.

Here’s a quick procedure to follow:

• Make sure it’s legal to change lanes
• Signal your intention to change lanes – this will alert the drivers around you
• Check your mirrors for cars and traffic
• Check your blind spots by turning around for a second
• Safely move into the other lane while maintaining speed
• Turn off your signal/indicator lights


Unless you’re passing another vehicle, keep in the right-hand lane when on freeways or highways with multiple lanes. This is so passing vehicles can safely use the far left-hand lane.


A passing lane is a lane added to a highway to allow vehicles to pass slower vehicles. There are often passing lanes in the mountains as these roads tend to be narrower. Slower vehicles will stay in the right-hand lane(s), which permits other vehicles to pass safely in the left lane. Signs will alert drivers to a passing lane ahead.

Sometimes on highways that have only two lanes, short passing lanes are added at intervals to allow for an opportunity to pass slower cars. This is typical on roads where it is difficult to otherwise pass without a passing lane, such as in the mountains. When there is a passing lane, you should keep it in the right-hand lane unless you are passing slower vehicles. This will give vehicles that are going at a faster speed the opportunity to pass you.

When a passing lane comes to an end, traffic in the right-hand lane will merge with traffic in the left-hand lane. There will be signs on the roadway so you can prepare for the start and end of a passing lane.

Passing without a passing lane:

Passing without a passing lane on a two-lane highway is often unsafe and difficult. If you make a mistake, it can often end in a head-on collision. Pass only when it’s safe and necessary.

Here’s a step-by-step guideline for how to pass:

1. Make sure it’s legal to pass.
2. Signal.
3. Stay a safe distance behind the vehicle(s) ahead until you are ready to pass.
4. Make sure there is no oncoming traffic and no one already passing you.
5 Check your mirrors!
6. Check your blind spots!
7. Pass the vehicle(s) safely while keeping a constant and safely legal speed.
8. Once you have passed the vehicle, check your mirrors and your blind spots to be sure that you have cleared the vehicle.
9. Signal to get back into the right-hand lane.
10. Change back into the right-hand lane
11. Turn off your indicator/signal light.

Do not pass when:

• Oncoming vehicles are approaching.
• Your center lane is solid, making it illegal to pass.
• There is a sign that says not to pass.
• In school or playground zones.
• Another vehicle is stopped for a pedestrian.
• A school bus has flashing red lights with the stop arm sticking out.


There is often a portion of the road on highways between the curb and the lane that is a designated emergency stopping lane. As the name implies, you should only stop here if you have an emergency that needs to be dealt with immediately.

Do not drive in emergency stopping lanes. Go back into the actual highway lanes when you are ready to drive.


Merging is something you have to do when two roadways become one. When this happens, drivers must cooperate by giving each other enough space to properly merge. Pay attention to the other vehicles and make sure everyone has all the space they need.

Neither the merging vehicle nor the vehicles already on the highway have the right-of-way. Merging is a shared responsibility between the vehicles joining the roadway and the vehicles already on the roadway.

The art and science of proper merging:

Try not to stop or slow down when merging – be sure to go with the flow of traffic.

Merging requires a plan and is very attentive to your surroundings. Here’s a step-by-step guideline for how to merge properly:

1. Pay attention to the flow of traffic.
2. Signal.
3. Find a gap in the traffic and adjust your speed to meet the gap.
4. Maintain your speed to match traffic.
5. Continually check your blind spots for vehicles behind you as try to merge.
6. When you can, merge into the other lane.
7. Turn off your indicator/signal lights.

How to exit a highway:

    1. Plan ahead so you don’t have to exit at the last minute.
    2. Signal.
    3.  Move into the slow-down lane (if there is one) with the corresponding exit.
    4. Try to do most of your slowing down in the slow-down lane as it is safer.
    5. Switch off your indicator/signal lights.
    6. Do not try to go back to an exit or exit at the last second. Just keep going and use the next available exit.

<< What to do in an accident     When you cannon see clearly >>