PSA: How to Use Highway On-Ramps

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A major highway intersection

If we’re being honest with ourselves, driving is probably one of the most frustrating tasks in our everyday lives.

It’s not the actual act of operating a motor vehicle that’s so frustrating, that part is actually kind of enjoyable. What makes driving so incredulous are the clueless drivers who fill our roadways.

Some days, just getting from point A to point B is a literal chore. It’s like when people get behind the wheel they zone out and become totally oblivious to their surroundings.

I’m on the roads quite a bit. My daily commute is about 40 minutes one way, and mostly interstate. I’m an understanding and patient dude but, man sometimes, dealing with traffic has me ready to fight by the time I get to the office.

Me: “Always be kind to others no matter what. You never know what someone is going through.”

Also me: *flashing headlights, laying on the horn, screaming through wildly flailing arms*  “You’re in the left lane, Grandpa! Move or I will run you off the road!”

Clogging the left lane on the interstate is probably my biggest pet peeve. However, there’s one thing I witness nearly every day that absolutely blows my mind: too many people don’t know how to use a highway entrance ramp.

You’d think it’d be obvious to use the ramp as intended and accelerate before trying to merge into high-speed traffic, but apparently it’s not. 

Almost daily, I’ll see vehicles creeping up entrance ramps attempting to merge into traffic traveling at nearly double their speed. The drivers on the highway will have to either slam on their brakes or resort to evasive action to avoid a collision. 

All the while the merging driver seems oblivious to the cataclysmic crash they almost caused.

I feel an obligation to not only bring awareness to this problem, but to educate drivers on how to use entrance ramps.

How to use on-ramps

Highway entrance ramps, or on-ramps, were designed to allow a vehicle to reach highway speeds before merging into flowing traffic. This is one of the only times where you’re encouraged to stomp the gas pedal. On-ramps are basically a legal drag strips, so go nuts. Let your inner Andretti out. Don’t be shy. Punch it.

The on-ramp will spit you out into a merge lane that disappears after a few hundred feet. Use this lane to continue acceleration and smoothly enter the highway. If you’re not traveling at the speed of highway traffic by the time you reach the merge lane, you did it wrong.

Basically, don’t be that person who waits until they’re actually on the highway to accelerate. That’s what on-ramps are for. If you try to enter the highway at a speed slower than the flow of traffic, you’ll do nothing but cause a problem, and possibly a crash.

Who yields?

Vehicles already on the freeway have the right-of-way. Period. 

If you’re entering the highway, it is your responsibility to adjust your speed accordingly to merge, not the other way around. Don’t wait until the last second to pick a spot, begin your merging plan as soon as you start onto the ramp. Observe traffic as you accelerate, activate your left turn signal, and use your driver’s side mirror to a find an open spot.

If the lane to the left is open, sometimes drivers on the highway will move over to allow entering vehicles to merge, but that’s more of a courtesy rather than an obligation. In most states, it’s the law that merging motorists must yield the right-of-way to existing traffic. Failure to do so can result in a citation.

It’s on you to merge smoothly and safely. 

If you reach the end of the merge lane and are still unable to merge, pull over to the shoulder and wait for traffic to clear. When traffic clears, speed up on the shoulder and merge. Never ever attempt to force your way onto the highway. If you’ve followed the steps outlined here, this won’t happen.

Use Common Sense

To sum it up, it’s just a matter of spotting a gap large enough to accommodate your vehicle and matching your speed to the speed of traffic. As with most aspects of driving, merging onto a busy freeway or interstate isn’t rocket science. Just use common sense and you’ll be fine.

The majority of the time, other drivers will move over and let you in. But, common courtesy is sadly infrequent these days. It’s up to you to know how to safely merge into traffic.

Stay focused behind the wheel. Don’t get caught with DWI (driving while ignorant).

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