Driving Through Intersections
Highway Interchanges

How to Drive Through Highway Interchanges

Updated Oct. 22, 2020

An interchange is the intersection of two highways at different levels with separate connecting roads for the transfer of traffic from one highway to the other through a series of ramps. The connecting ramps allow drivers to leave the road and enter another safely, without impeding the flow of traffic. While there is a large number of different interchange types, based on their configuration, four most common interchanges can be singled out: directional, trumpet, cloverleaf and diamond. The method of turning at interchanges may vary: make sure to slow down and observe road signs that will provide directions about how to make the turn. A single-point interchange compresses two intersections into a single intersection controlled by a single set of traffic lights.

Directional Interchange

A directional interchange is placed at an intersection of two highways where a high volume of traffic desires to transfer between only two legs of the interchange. Directional interchanges have increased ramp speed and capacity and require less space, when compared to a conventional cloverleaf interchange, but they are more costly to construct due to an increased number of ramps.

Directional Interchange

Cloverleaf Interchange

Probably the most common highway interchange out there. The cloverleaf interchange is designed to allow drivers to make turns off and onto the highway from four directions using loop ramps. Loop ramps safely accommodate left turns and eliminate all cross traffic conflicts.

Cloverlead Interchange

Two main disadvantages of the cloverleaf interchange design are the need for more space and longer travel distance for the left-turning traffic. However, cloverleaf interchanges are significantly cheaper than directional interchanges and are ideal for rural areas.

Diamond Interchange

Diamond interchange design is utilized when a busy freeway intersects with a lesser road. Traffic leaves and enters the highway through four ramps. Left turns are made after leaving the highway. Due to the limitations in design, an increase in the volume of traffic on the crossroad leads to congestion and increased waiting time for traffic leaving the highway.

Diamond Interchange

Trumpet Interchange

A trumpet interchange may be used instead of a T-intersection when one highway terminates into another highway. A trumpet interchange may be seen as a combination of a directional and a diamond-shaped interchange.

Trumpet Interchange

Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI)

A single point urban interchange is a traffic signal-controlled diamond-shaped interchange. Through traffic, traffic turning left or off the interchange is controlled by a single set of traffic signals that are located at the top of the interchange. The design is utilized at busy interchanges with limited space available, it's main advantage is that it allows opposing left turns to proceed simultaneously.

Single Point Urban Interchange

Road Signs At Highway Interchanges

In order to assist drivers with navigating complex interchanges, green guide signs are installed on approaches and directly at the interchange. Individual guide signs may be installed above separate lanes to let drivers traveling in the lane know their options.

Guide Signs At A Highway Interchange

Additional warning signs, such as MERGING TRAFFIC, ADDED LANE or WEAVE AREA may be installed to warn drivers about traffic that may be merging onto the highway. While vehicles already traveling on the highway have the right-of-way, you should still exercise caution when you see these highway warning signs near an interchange.

Merging Traffic Road Sign on a Highway Interchange

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An intersection is a point where two or more roads join together. An intersection is an especially dangerous part of the road due to the fact that vehicle trajectories may intersect, which would automatically result in a crash. According to statistics, crashes at intersections, driveways and highway entrance ramps are the second most common type of traffic accidents, it comes right after hitting a stationary object.

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Controlled Intersections

An intersection is said to be “controlled” when access to the intersection is regulated by traffic signals or road signs, while access to an uncontrolled intersection is regulated only by the right-of-way rules. You must remember that traffic signals do not completely resolve traffic conflicts and you must learn to combine traffic signals and the right-of-way rules to avoid hazardous situations.

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Uncontrolled Intersection

An uncontrolled intersection is one of the most common types of intersections out there. An uncontrolled intersection is a road intersection with no traffic light or road signs to indicate the right-of-way.

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A roundabout is an uncontrolled intersection or an intersection controlled by road signs where traffic moves counterclockwise around a central island. Access to the roundabout is usually controlled by YIELD signs that may be duplicated with additional yield line pavement markings.

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Turn Lanes

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T Intersections

T-intersection is a three-way junction where three roads come together. Just like with any other intersection, you must exercise caution when approaching it and you should slow down and watch out for other traffic and pedestrians even if you are traveling on the through road and have the right-of-way.