Using Driving Lanes
Choosing the Right Lane

Choosing The Right Lane for Any Situation: Acing Your Driving Maneuvers

Updated Oct. 30, 2020

Learning how to use lanes appropriately is essential for any driver who will be using large roads and freeways where there are multiple lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. It is likely you will one day need this information, even if you live and work in a rural area where the roads generally have a single lane traveling each way. When you eventually encounter a larger road, you must be able to choose the right lane without hesitation. Incorrect lane usage can endanger all road users, hold up traffic and incur a traffic fine.

Fortunately, identifying the correct lane to drive in is not difficult. Follow the guidelines laid out below and you should never go wrong.

Keep to the right

Lanes of traffic on a highway are organized by the speed at which the vehicles occupying that lane travel. In most cases, the slowest traffic should keep to the right, faster traffic should occupy the center lanes and those traveling at the highest speeds should stick to the left lane. “Keep to the right” is the first rule you should abide by when choosing a lane on the highway.

In many states, the left lane is reserved only for motorists who are in the process of overtaking another vehicle or making a left turn. Check your state’s own driving manual to find out what the rules are in your area. As it is commonly known, the “keep right” law prohibits motorists from occupying the left lane unless it is for either of the above reasons. Even if no such law exists in your state, it is good practice not to remain too long in the left lane.

Driving in the left lane

Whether it is a legal requirement in your state or not, we recommend only choosing the left lane on a highway when you need to pass other traffic or execute a left turn. Use your mirrors to check for drivers already occupying the left lane before you change lanes; remember that these vehicles will be traveling faster than you. If overtaking, merge back to the right lane when the maneuver is complete. It is against the law to surpass the legal speed limit, even in the left-hand lane.

Avoid driving in blind spots

The speed at which you are traveling is not the only factor you must consider when choosing a lane on the highway. Avoid driving in another vehicle’s blind spot, as you may not be clearly visible to the driver. This is particularly important where trucks and larger vehicles are concerned. The larger the vehicle, the larger the blind spot.

Always check that your intended lane-change is not about to land you in another driver’s blind spot before completing the maneuver. Change lanes or increase your following distance as necessary, should you find yourself in this position.

Preparing to exit the highway

Drivers should prepare to leave the highway as early as possible. Never make last-minute highway exits by changing lanes in a hurry as you could startle other drivers or lose control of your vehicle. It is always better to miss your exit than to be involved in a collision.

Preparing to leave the highway in good time is easy, thanks to the green guide signs that warn you of your approaching exit at least a couple of miles in advance. Merge to the furthest right lane when you see these signs. Sometimes you will encounter dedicated “EXIT ONLY” lanes on the right. Only occupy this lane if you intend to leave the highway at the next exit.

Lane use control signs

Active lane use control signs are often placed above lanes on tunnels, bridges, toll booths and multi-lane roads. These signs are usually present where the direction of traffic is subject to change, or the lanes are opened and closed at different times throughout the day. The main signs you will encounter in this situation are detailed below:

  • A steady green arrow: You may drive in this lane.
  • A steady red “X”: Do not use this lane.
  • A steady yellow “X”: Merge out of this lane, the direction of travel may be about to change.
  • A flashing yellow “X” or a steady white arrow pointing left: Only use this lane to turn left.

Merging traffic ahead

A “MERGING TRAFFIC” sign indicates that other drivers will be entering the highway ahead. When this sign is present you should choose one of the middle lanes, to make way for these motorists. Only remain in the right-hand lane if you are preparing to exit the highway or if the adjacent lane is too busy.

Merging Traffic Ahead Road SignMerge signs are placed near freeway entrances to alert you to traffic entering the freeway. Always watch for vehicles merging onto the freeway. Adjusting your speed or moving safely into another lane will allow drivers to enter the freeway smoothly and safely.

Choosing a lane at a roundabout

Choosing a lane is not a problem at single lane roundabouts. When the roundabout has multiple lanes, you must know which one to choose for your intended exit. These general rules of thumb apply:

  1. 1

    Enter the right-hand lane if you plan to turn right or travel straight through the roundabout (note: you may use either lane to travel straight through).

  2. 2

    Enter the left-hand lane if you wish to turn left or return in the direction from which you came.

Choosing a lane at a roundabout

Would you pass a driving test today?

Find out with our free quiz!


Like the article? Give us 5 points!

Click a star to add your vote

5.0 out of 5 stars based on 8 votes.

Read next

Changin Lanes on the Road
Using Driving Lanes 3 of 4

Changing Lanes

New drivers must learn how to change lanes safely and practice the maneuver as often as possible – there is more to it than you think. Changing lanes unsafely endangers you and everybody with whom you are sharing the road! Getting marked down for an unsafe lane change during the driving test will probably cost you your license.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Entering a Highway
Using Driving Lanes 4 of 4

Merging onto A Highway

No matter how thoroughly you mentally prepare yourself for the challenge of driving on the highway, your very first time is going to be stressful. Knowing what you are doing on paper is not the same as being able to execute the advanced maneuvers needed during highway driving. Being around other motorists traveling at speed is intimidating but you will quickly adapt, with regular practice and guidance from your instructor. Let’s find out what you need to know about entering a highway and merging with other traffic safely.

Making Turns Safely
Making Turns 1 of 9

Making Turns

The art of making turns correctly is a skill often neglected by learner drivers. There are more techniques involved in turning than simply moving the steering wheel in the direction you wish to go. When turning to completely reverse your direction of travel – perhaps because you have missed your destination or are going the wrong way – you have three main options. These are U-turns, two-point turns and three-point turns.

Before You Start Driving 10 of 10

Braking Techniques

There a variety of complex techniques involved in slowing down or stopping your vehicle; slamming on the brakes is rarely the best course of action. Remember that you may be able to achieve the desired speed reduction simply by removing your foot from the accelerator; applying the brakes is not always necessary. If you do need to reapply the brakes, do so with a smooth, building pressure.

Signaling 1 of 4


Drivers must communicate with other motorists by all available means, using headlights, stop signals, turn signals, hazard lights, the car’s horn and hand signals. Your situation will determine which communication devices should be used. Hand signals should only be used if other signaling tools – such as turn indicators and brake lights – are malfunctioning. Your knowledge of hand signals will also be assessed during the driving test, so it is essential to master them.

Signaling 2 of 4

Hand Signals for Driving

Most drivers assume that remembering hand signals will only be necessary in the unlikely event that their turn indicators fail, but this is not the case. You will need to recognize other road user’s hand signals far more often than you will need to use them yourself. It is possible that other drivers will use hand signals if their indicators are broken, though you are more likely to encounter cyclists using them.

Signaling 3 of 4

Headlight Flashing

Drivers commonly flash their headlights to attract the attention of other motorists for a variety of reasons. However, most official state driving manuals recommend flashing your headlights only to notify other drivers that their high-beams are on as they approach you from the opposite direction. Leaving your high-beams on can temporarily blind other drivers and cause a collision.

Signaling 4 of 4

Using Your Car Horn

Sounding your car horn is the most effective way to get another road user’s attention. However, it is also the most aggressive means of communication and as such, must be used sparingly. Some drivers use the car horn to express anger and frustration when things on the road do not go their way. Of the all the incorrect reasons to sound your horn, being angry at another road user takes the prize for worst offense.

Using Driving Lanes 1 of 4

Using Driving Lanes

There is far more to using driving lanes than simply keeping yourself within the road markings that separate one row of traffic from another. Which lane you should occupy and how you should drive within that lane depend on your speed, direction of travel, whether you intend to turn and a whole host of other factors.