Staying Safe on America’s Freeways

Driving on a freeway is probably the safest driving any professional driver will ever do. You can generally travel long distances without stopping or without having to contend with intersections, narrow streets, bicycles and pedestrians. However, because of the higher speed and traffic volume, freeway driving requires a higher degree of driver awareness.

Entering/Exiting Freeways

When any trip involves freeway travel, it’s important to identify all entrance and exit points in your pre-trip planning. And, remember that no two ramps are the same. Terrain and space will determine whether a ramp is curved or straight, its degree of sharpness, the length of its acceleration and deceleration lanes, and visibility. Also, speed limits posted on exit and entrance ramps are intended for passenger vehicles; the safe speed for large vehicles may be lower. Importantly, keep in mind that confusion and apprehension are very common near entrance and exit ramps. So, watch other drivers for rapid slowing, quick lane changes, hesitation, and backup or brake lights to help avoid potentially dangerous encounters.

On the Freeway

Once you have safely merged onto a freeway, adjust your speed and following distance to safely match road and weather conditions, visibility, and traffic. Scan the road – about a quarter of a mile up the freeway – and make the most of your mirrors to stay aware of what’s going on around your vehicle. Recognizing potentially dangerous situations well in advance can allow you to safely maneuver past them. Watch out for brake lights, traffic entering and exiting the freeway, and vehicles stopped on the side of the road, especially if the turn signal indicates a possible move. Be mindful of curves and hills, and always heed work zone signs, even if you don’t immediately see any evidence of construction. Stay out of packs of traffic to allow time and space to react to trouble, and keep to the right unless you’re overtaking a slower-moving vehicle. If you must change lanes, signal well in advance of moving, and check your path carefully and continually. Be particularly vigilant in watching for vehicles entering and exiting your blind spots. If another vehicle is passing you, be courteous and give the driver space to re-enter the lane.

A word of Caution

Driving at the same speed over an extended period of time can be “hypnotizing,” particularly at night. Help avoid highway hypnosis by getting plenty of rest before the trip. While driving, keep your eyes moving and your mind engaged in driving-related information. Maintain good vehicle ventilation and periodically stop to stretch. If you feel sleepy, pull off in a safe, legal area and get some rest.