When You Exit a Controlled Access Highway from the Right Lane

Last Edited: November 11, 2016 // by TruckerScape, Inc.

When You Exit from the Right Lane of a Controlled Access Highway to a Minor Highway or Surface Street

Personal vehicle exits from the right lane 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) onto smaller minor and back highways and surface streets are some of the simplest.  They are normally straightforward so long as their drivers maintain a safe distance (beyond their lead threshold) in front of my truck and signal well before they reach the exit ramps.

For each of the two directions of travel on interstates and other major highways, many smaller highways and surface streets have single ramps for vehicles exiting onto them and single access ramps for returning vehicles back onto the interstates and major highways.  Single exit ramps typically provide entry to both directions on these highways and streets.  In both directions of travel on interstates and major highways, exit ramps are often on the near side of these highways and streets.  This enables personal vehicles and trucks to reach the exit ramps without first mixing with emerging vehicles and crossing over (or under) these highways and streets.  So taking such exits on the open road is usually safe and easy for you and other drivers.

However, there is one riskier situation that a personal vehicle driver can get into on the open road when entering or preparing to exit an interstate or major highway via these single ramps.  When I move to the left lane to pass a vehicle in the right lane or to ease the entry of a vehicle coming off one of these ramps into the right lane, the driver sometimes speeds up and then settles in the right lane alongside my truck.  I’ll be expecting him to advance (hopefully briskly) through the risk zones on my right including the final one in front of my truck (see the Risk Zone:  Close in Front of My Truck and in the Right Lane Next to Mine tip).  An exception would be if he takes the next exit on the right.

Close Encounters with My Truck

Safe maneuvers and exits are not so routine in denser traffic on multi-lane city freeways and other major highways.  One fairly common incident I’ve experienced is when I’ve been in the right lane and a personal vehicle driver in a lane to my left has suddenly swerved in front of my truck to enter an exit ramp.  While a few drivers may be surprised by an unanticipated ramp approach, others evidently don’t want to pull over behind my truck and wait for it to clear the ramp entrance (see the Cutting in Front of Me tip).

A hazardous situation develops when a driver exiting close in front of my truck discovers that the ramp is short or curvy or congested and has to brake hard as he enters, forcing me to brake hard as well.  That’s what happened to me for example, on a trip through Knoxville, TN one afternoon.  In that case, after cutting into the right lane in front of me the driver braked hard before entering the exit ramp.  The weather and road conditions were fine and the ramp was straight and unoccupied but down-sloping.  The driver was in a new high performance convertible and should have been comfortable holding off on the brake until on the ramp, but just seemed oblivious to the danger of my truck a few feet behind her vehicle.

Truck lane laws permitting (in dense traffic areas trucks are often prohibited from travelling in left lanes in the absence of left exits), I sometimes move to a lane to the left of the right lane to avoid the “churn” (vehicle exits and entrances) on the right.  An even riskier situation is possible when I’m in the lane to the left of the right (exit) lane.  A driver rushing to an exit by swerving two or more lanes from my left across my lane to the right lane may suddenly be blocked by a vehicle passing my truck in the right lane.  The ensuing maneuver to avoid a collision by that driver with the vehicle in the right lane could result in an accident with my truck.  It is important that you allow for my truck hiding vehicles in the right lane from your vision.

Conversely a few drivers passing me on the right hurry to then move left to my lane or a lane to my left (see the Passing Me on the Right and the Risk Zone tips).  Since my truck hides vehicles on my left from them, they can also be surprised as they cut left in front of my truck.  The worst situation would of course be meeting a vehicle rushing to an exit ramp from my left.

Takeaways

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), maintain a safe distance (beyond your lead threshold) in front of trucks and signal well before you reach your exit ramps.

On the open road if a truck has moved to the left lane to let you enter the right lane alongside it, accelerate to a safe lead distance in front (beyond your lead threshold) or slide back behind it as soon as it is practical, safe and lawful to do so.

When you rush from a lane on one side of a truck to take an exit close in front of it, you risk a rear end collision if you have to brake for some problem on the ramp.

On multi-lane city freeways and other major highways, when you rush from a lane on one side of a truck close across its front to a lane on its far side, you risk meeting another vehicle on its far side that could result in an accident with that vehicle and/or the truck.

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