The United States offers over 161,000 miles of paved roads. That’s a lot of space for road tripping, vacation traveling, and daily commutes. But when those drives involve multi-lane freeways and expressways, there are a unique set of risks that you might not encounter on a back road or a Sunday drive through town.  Let’s learn about those dangers and what you can do to improve your chances of arriving at your destination safely.

Most highways offer at least two lanes, and most drivers understand that, on a two-lane highway, the right lane is for slower traffic and the left lane is for passing. Most merging happens into the right lane, which means that traffic in that lane is not always up to speed.

Drivers should use the left lane to pass – while staying within the posted speed limits – and then return to the right lane as soon as it’s safe. In fact, some jurisdictions have made it illegal to stay in the left lane unless you are actively passing another vehicle.

But what happens when you add a third lane to the mix?

Managing Multiple Lanes

For the purposes of this blog, we are referring to highways that have three continuous lanes. Many two-lane highways have temporary acceleration lanes for merging drivers, with the lane ending after a reasonable merging area. But when there are three continuous lanes, with a left, center, and right lane, do you know where you should be? Do you know where it’s safest to be?

The majority of accidents on three-lane highways involve the right lane. Because cars are merging, accelerating, and slowing down frequently, this lane presents the highest risk of an accident. When people driving in the right lane lose focus or fail to check blind spots, accidents frequently occur.

The left lane, on the other hand, is the least likely to be associated with highway accidents, because fewer people are getting in and out of that lane. However, since the speeds traveled in that lane tend to match or exceed the speed limit, when crashes do occur, there’s a greater likelihood of serious injury – or even death.

The center lane is frequently referred to as the cruising lane, but in reality, it may actually represent the riskiest spot on the road. While speeds may be more reasonable than the left lane and more consistent than the right lane, drivers in the middle face challenges from vehicles on both sides – a circumstance that is unique to the center lane. This means that middle-lane drivers have to be hyperaware of two sets of drivers, those on their left and those on their right, and practice focused defensive driving.

Defensive driving on a typical two-lane road involves staying vigilant about what other drivers are doing, but in most scenarios, you’re only dealing with one vehicle at a time. This changes drastically on a three-lane highway, when a center-lane driver needs to be aware of what the vehicles on the left and right are doing simultaneously.

When you find yourself in this situation, not only will you need to be aware of how the vehicles on either side interact with you, but also how they interact with each other. For example, you might be passed by a cruising vehicle on your left and an accelerating vehicle on your right at the exact same time, and both vehicles may desire to get into the center lane in front of you.

Blind spots may prevent them from recognizing that they are trying to merge into the same lane at the same time, making a collision inevitable. But by following appropriate defensive driving techniques, you can protect yourself from being a part of the accident.

Stay Safe with Defensive Driving Skills

You can build critical defensive driving skills by taking a defensive driving course such as the ones offered by DriveSafe Online. From the comfort of your own home – or anywhere you choose with your mobile device – you can refresh your driving skills and learn new tips and techniques that will keep you and your passengers safer on the road.

You’ll learn the importance of maintaining appropriate speeds on highways, regardless of the lane you choose, and how to leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you to avoid a collision. Other important topics include turn signal use and navigating driving challenges such as inclement weather – all factors that increase your risk when operating your vehicle on highways.

When you take a DriveSafe Online Defensive Driving course, not only will you receive valuable information that will help keep you safe, but you’ll also enjoy an immersive learning experience that utilizes full-screen video, engaging animations, and unique in-car and drone videos that will give you a real-life perspective. You’ll be able to visualize yourself in a variety of scenarios in order to build your defensive driving skills and protect yourself behind the wheel – whether you’re taking a leisurely cruise or navigating congested traffic on multi-lane highways. Check out the DriveSafe Online website to find your state’s defensive driving course and get started in the fast lane on your way to safe driving.