Using Driving Lanes
Step-by-Step Instructions to Exiting a Highway

Merging With Traffic: Step-by-Step Instructions To Exiting a Highway

Updated Aug. 5, 2019

While exiting a highway is nowhere near as difficult or intimidating as entering one, there is still a lot that can go wrong. Learning how to exit a highway safely is a skill like any other you will learn in preparation for your driver’s exam. It will not require you to merge with traffic as you do when entering the highway, though it still deserves considerable attention.

Exiting a highway safely is all about pre-planning. You must know when your exit is approaching and move yourself into the right lane accordingly. Mapping unfamiliar journeys and noting down highway exits before you travel is essential, as you may over-shoot your destination by many miles if you miss one.

Keep an eye out for highway guide signs, as these will help you identify your desired exit and leave the highway safely.

Highway exit signs

Each highway exit is usually accompanied by several guide signs. These will be posted well in advance of the turn off at regular intervals. Guide signs usually name the destination an exit takes you to, beside the distance left to travel before that exit. The location of the guide sign will also tell you which side of the highway you will need to exit from i.e. the right side of the highway indicates an exit to the right.

Step-by-step instructions

Use the steps laid out here to leave the highway safely, when your exit is approaching:

  1. 1

    Identify which lane runs adjacent to the deceleration lane andmerge into that lane, well before the exit.

  2. 2

    Activate your turn signalto let other drivers know you intend to merge. It is a legal requirement to do this at least 100 feet before the turn in most states. Usehand signalsif your indicator is not visible or is malfunctioning.

  3. 3

    Merge into the deceleration lane. You must not decrease speed before entering this lane. Make sure you are not straddling the dividing line.

  4. 4

    Decrease your speed graduallyonce you have entered the deceleration lane. Keep a lookout for road signs which indicate asafe speedto use on the exit ramp.

  5. 5

    Be prepared to abide by road signs and traffic signals once you have left the highway. Keep within theposted speed limit.


Right-of-way is not something you will often need to consider when exiting a highway, as the entry and exit ramps are generally separate. When entering or exiting a highway through a weave area, you must know when to yield right-of-way to other drivers. Such areas are clearly marked with a “WEAVE AREA” road sign, to let motorists know when giving way will be necessary.

The law states that vehicles leaving the highway have right-of-way over vehicles entering the highway. Keep in mind that having the right-of-way in this situation does not necessarily mean you should never yield. If it would be safer to yield to a driver entering the highway, this is the action you should take.

Common mistakes

Here are some of the mistakes most commonly made by inexperienced drivers while exiting a highway. Keep them in mind and do your best to avoid them!

  1. 1

    Reducing speed before entering the deceleration lane.Slowing down while still on the main highway could cause another, faster-moving driver to hit your vehicle from behind.

  2. 2

    Entering the deceleration lane too late.Drivers exiting the highway should move into the deceleration lane at the earliest, safe opportunity. Enter too late and you may not have enough time to slow down. If you miss your chance to leave, you must wait until the next exit.

  3. 3

    Trying to re-enter the highway from the deceleration lane.Careless drivers sometimes attempt to re-join the highway from the deceleration lane, having realized they are taking the wrong exit. This is extremely dangerous as other motorists will not be expecting you to merge from this lane and may not have time to react to avoid a collision. If you realize you have taken the wrong exit once you have begun to merge into the deceleration lane, you must exit the highway and re-enter using the proper entrance ramp.

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