When You Change Your Mind in Mid-Exit on a Controlled Access Highway on the Open Road
One of the most hazardous things you can do is to suddenly pull out of your exit just as you reach the ramp entrance and return to the highway. A few personal vehicle drivers, evidently tourists, have done this on the open road (typically on interstates or major highways with two or more lanes in each direction, in sparse traffic, usually in rural areas) directly in front of my truck. In suddenly swerving out of the ramp entrance, across the Y divider between the ramp entrance and the highway shoulder, then onto the shoulder and finally back onto the highway, they have had to brake hard. This maneuver has forced me to brake hard to avoid rear ending them.
Following is a description of a potentially fatal crash that I was fortunate to be able to avert. This is an excerpt from another tip. For more background see the Risk Zone: Alongside the Rear Section of My Trailer on My Left Side, Where I Can See You in My Large Left Mirror tip.
Accident Averted and Lives Saved
The direst emergency I have had to deal with occurred on a beautiful summer day. I was driving around 5 mph (miles per hour) under the speed limit in the right lane on an interstate where construction had recently been completed. I was trapped in front by a line of slow moving personal vehicles (seemingly tourists) and in the left lane by a slow moving pickup truck followed closely by another big rig. The big rig’s driver obviously wanted to pass the pickup.
As they reached an exit ramp curving off to the right, all vehicles ahead of me took it and I began accelerating to get free of the pickup and to enable the big rig to get around the pickup via the right lane. Suddenly a van in the line of exiting vehicles pulled crosswise into the right lane ahead of me. Apparently the van driver had changed his/her mind about exiting and somehow managed to make a U-turn back to the interstate.
Unfortunately the van was only about 150 feet ahead of me. There was no shoulder space to miss it on the right and no hope of braking hard enough to dampen a collision that would crush the driver’s side of the van and kill or critically injure the occupants. I did not have time to check on the pickup in the left lane and signal a left lane change, but knew I was moving past it. I swerved into the left lane hoping that a sideways collision with the pickup would be less serious and possibly avoided if both trucks in the left lane braked hard enough. Luckily a collision was averted—the van stopped in the right lane as I sped past its front and the pickup and big rig were able to brake behind my truck in the left lane. As I slowed down with flashers on to check the trucks behind me, the van sped on past in the right lane with no apparent gesture of apology or appreciation from the driver.
In addition to the speed differential between my truck and the pickup and good weather and road conditions, my trailer was lightly loaded (with insulation). I don’t know if the pickup and big rig drivers saw the van pull out in front of me, but they did a great job of braking for me. All these factors made the drastic life-saving maneuver successful.
If you find that the exit ramp you are taking is not the one you want, I hope you will continue on it to the highway or surface street the ramp intersects with, then find a place to turn around so you can return to the interstate safely on an entrance ramp. You may very well save yourself and your passengers as well as other drivers and their passengers behind you from injury or death.
When You Decide to Leave a Line of Vehicles Backed Up at an Exit in Dense Traffic
Another example of changing your mind in mid-exit happens in dense traffic, typically on a multi-lane city freeway during rush hours. Drivers wanting to take a busy exit can get backed up in the approach lane. Then a driver will decide to pull out of the line rather than wait. In changing lanes, the driver often does not wait for a safe break in traffic. When possible I drive two lanes to the left of a right exit approach lane or two lanes to the left of a left exit approach lane to avoid such a pull-out.
On the open road (typically on interstates or major highways with two or more lanes in each direction, in sparse traffic, usually in rural areas) or in heavier traffic, one of the most hazardous things you can do is to suddenly pull out of your exit just as you reach the ramp entrance and return to the highway.
If you find that the exit ramp you are taking is not the one you want, continue on it to the highway or surface street the ramp intersects with, then find a place to turn around so you can return to your highway safely on an entrance ramp.
If you want to pull out of a heavily congested highway lane such as a freeway exit approach during rush hour, do so only when you have a safe break in traffic.