Lane Changing in America

One of the great things about about America is that you don't have to learn how to drive before they let you behind the wheel.  One of the bad things about America is that nobody has to learn how to drive before getting behind the wheel.

If you are from Europe, these tips will help you understand the American way of changing lanes.  In true American fashion, there are several options.  As a reference point, the European way is described first.


Changing Lanes, European Way

  1. Pick the spot you want to move into.
  2. Align with the spot.  Make sure there is ample room behind and in front.
  3. Match speed with the lane you are moving into.
  4. Turn on signal.
  5. Make sure the spot is still open.
  6. Move into your spot.
  7. Turn off signal.

The problem with this is that it's safe and it doesn't antagonize your fellow drivers.  The Americans have ways that are much more interesting.

Changing Lanes, American Way -- Option 1

Exotic Wrecks

  1. Turn on signal.
  2. Wait a few seconds.
  3. Now that others have had a chance to get out of the way, just move over.

The beauty of this method is that you don't have to bother with checking your mirrors, or even worry about which way they are pointing. 


Changing Lanes, American Way -- Option 2

  1. Slow down.
  2. Slow down more.
  3. If anybody around you is still moving, slow down some more.
  4. The object is to make everybody else come to a complete stand-still so that you can potz over into the lane of your choice at your leisure.

Option 2 is a great way to really get the blood pressure rising in the other drivers. 

The third option is not really a process, so much as ad-hoc moves excercised opportunistically. 

Changing Lanes, American Way -- Option 3, Southern California Special

  • No spot is too small to move into.
  • Never use your signal, as that just warns your opponents, I mean, your fellow drivers.
  • Only change lanes at the last possible moment.  Every spot you can advance counts! 


Changing Lanes, American Way -- Option 4

  1. When you get a car, new or used, immediately turn on the signal.  The direction doesn't matter.  Never turn it off.  This way, you never have to think about your turn signal again, and you still have a fifty percent chance that it's correct every time you turn!  What's there not to like?
  2. This method works better in an old truck with a faded paint job.
  3. When changing lanes, slowly swerve over in the direction you want to move.  Don't worry too much, thanks to #2, others will get out of the way.  You can make a few fake swerves first, to warn others, but that is a courtesy and not really required.


Send me comments: henri at hein dot org.

See also Do the Right Thing.

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