Driving in Heavy Traffic
Dealing with Heavy Traffic on Highways

Driving on Multi-lane Roads With Heavy Traffic: Safe Driving Tactics

Updated Dec. 11, 2020

Driving on busy, multi-lane roads requires constant vigilance. With traffic and potential hazards in-front, behind and on both sides of your vehicle, the risk of an accident or collision occurring is high. At a moment’s notice, you must be ready to alter your speed or lane position to avoid danger.

Maintain a safe space around your vehicle

Maintaining a safe bubble of space on all sides of your car should be a top priority on a multi-lane road. This will be a challenge when traffic conditions are heavy. Keep as much space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you as possible, without disrupting the flow of traffic by driving too slowly. In addition, you should aim to stagger your position relative to vehicles in adjacent lanes. If you must maneuver quickly to avoid a collision, having room on either side of your vehicle will make this possible.

Do not disrupt the flow of traffic

All vehicles moving at the same speed while being evenly spaced out are the ideal conditions on a multi-lane road. Driving faster or slower than other traffic will force other motorists to adjust their speed and position to maintain space around their vehicles. This will also worsen congestion when there are many drivers on the road. Try to move with the flow of traffic, adjusting your speed to match that of other motorists around you.

Look ahead for blocked lanes

When driving on multi-lane urban streets, you should get into the habit of scanning the road for hazards at least a block and a half ahead of your current position. Be sure to keep an eye out for lane blockages when doing this. You can help to keep traffic moving by merging to a clearer lane if your lane is blocked further along the road.

There may not be an obvious space for you to merge if traffic is busy, though you may still be able to change lanes by signaling your intention to turn and waiting for another driver to let you in. Never try and force your way into an adjacent lane when space is limited, as this will annoy other motorists and could cause an accident.

Congestion Ahead Road Sign WarningAdvance warning signs may provide clues to traffic ahead of you, allowing you to merge or slow down as necessary.

Plan ahead for turns

Drivers must remain aware of their surroundings and prepare for any necessary turns ahead of time. As soon as you identify your turn-off on the road ahead, begin merging into an appropriate lane that permits the maneuver. Keep in mind that you may not be able to execute multiple lane changes consecutively during heavy traffic. Turns on multi-lane roadways are discussed in more detail in our next section.

Avoid blocking intersections

Always check traffic on the other side of an intersection before entering it – even if a green signal light indicates that you may proceed. If there is not enough space for your vehicle in the lane on the other side, entering the intersection would obstruct other lanes of traffic and could cause gridlock.

Look out for pedestrians

You should keep speed to a minimum and always be prepared to stop when driving in an area with a high number of pedestrians. Pedestrians may blindly step out onto a crosswalk when it is not safe to do so or cross busy roads illegally between two intersections. Turning left at an intersection will demand additional caution when pedestrians are around.

Passing on a multi-lane road

Passing on a multi-lane road will always be risky but is often necessary. Turn to check your blind spots and use your mirrors to look for traffic all the way around your vehicle. Check to see whether any other vehicles are poised to move into the space you intend to use to complete the pass and do not proceed until you are certain it is clear. Passing on the left is always the better option, as right-hand passes are riskier and prohibited in many areas.

Respect other drivers

With so many dangers for drivers to contend with, tensions on busy multi-lane roads are often running high. Do your best to be patient with other motorists, treating them with the same courtesy as you would expect to be treated with yourself.  Look out for other drivers preparing to turn, change lanes or enter the roadway and allow them as much space as you can to complete the maneuver.

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