Merge Onto the Highway Without Crashing

Merging onto the highway is one of the more stressful lessons we all learn in driver's ed. Because highway conditions (and other drivers) are unpredictable, it's difficult to apply the same rules to any given situation. Understanding traffic laws and having good driving reflexes are key to merging on the highway safely. See Step 1 to learn all you need to know about how to merge without crashing.


Using the Right Technique

  1. Accelerate to the same speed as highway traffic. The first step of merging safely is to make sure you're going the same speed as the traffic on the highway. Use the acceleration lane - the entrance ramp or place where you're entering the highway - to quickly gain speed.
    • Merging at the same speed as the other highway traffic will ensure that you don't create a dangerous situation when you merge, with cars coming up too fast from behind.
    • Look in your mirrors and pay attention to the other cars while you're accelerating. You may need to wait a beat or two before accelerating to full speed if you see a line of cars coming up quickly in the lane into which you're trying to merge.
  2. Put on your turn signal. Do it early, so other drivers know what you intend to do. This gives them time to make any necessary adjustments. However, keep in mind that as the person merging, you don't have the right of way. Other drivers are not expected to move out of the way; rather, they'll keep going at the same speed, and it's up to you to make sure you adjust your speed and merge safely.
  3. Look for a gap in traffic. If traffic on the highway is heavy, you'll have to find a gap before you merge. Keep your eyes on the road, but check your mirrors and look behind you to figure out when it's safe to go. At the same time, maintain an appropriate speed to allow you to merge safely into the flow of traffic.
    • Look in the internal rearview mirror, then at your driver's side mirror.
    • Glance to see that there is no car in your blind spot (close behind you in the lane that you are merging).
    • Check whether someone has slowed or stopped in the ramp/merge lane in front of you.
  4. Merge when it's safe to do so. When you see a gap, ease your car into the lane. You should now be driving at the same speed as the rest of the traffic. Pay attention to the cars around you as you merge; you'll need to be able to react quickly if someone brakes in front of you or tries to enter your lane.

Practicing Good Merging Habits

  1. Check other cars' "body language". Technically, cars in the merging lane are supposed to continue at the same speed, making it the responsibility of the person merging to find a gap and ease into it. However, every driver behaves a little differently, so it's important to pay attention to what's going on and make decisions based on reality.
    • If you see a car behind you that seems to be slowing down, the driver is probably trying to "let you in"; accelerate and take the person up on the favor. The same goes if you notice cars moving out of the merge lane to make room for you.
    • If you see a car that seems to be speeding up, let the person pass before trying to merge.
    • Sometimes drivers will wave you in with their hands, too.
    • Never assume others will use the correct speed. It's up to you to react to what happens.
  2. Create gaps in front and behind you. As you merge, you want to maintain a nice distance from the cars behind you and in front of you. This provides a little buffer in case the car in front of you brakes, forcing you to suddenly slow down. Practice accelerating at just the right speed, so that you're not coming up on cars too quickly or slowing things down behind you.
  3. Never merge abruptly. Do your best not to jut into the lane into which you're trying to merge. Other drivers might not see you. Make sure you use your turn signal, and make eye contact if possible.
  4. Don't come to a stop in the merge lane. If traffic is bad and you don't see any gaps, you might be tempted to come to a stop. This is not a good idea, because it takes too long for a car to accelerate from 0 to 65; when you try to start moving again, it'll be dangerous for both you and the other drivers. By putting your turn signal on right away, accelerating to the speed of traffic, and making eye contact with the driver behind you, you should be able to create a gap.[1]
  5. Be kind when you see others merging. Ease off the gas a bit if someone's trying to merge onto the highway in front of you, or speed up if that's the safer option. Stay alert and try to make things easier for the other drivers - it makes the highway safer for everyone.[2]


  • Always turn your head and look, don't just use the rearview mirror, as you will miss cars in your blind spot.
  • Pay attention and do not be distracted by other things.
  • Always keep an eye on how much of the merge lane remains. Merge lanes, even on the same highway can vary greatly in length.
  • It is your responsibility to merge into traffic. The traffic already on the highway has the right of way. You must adjust your speed accordingly and merge safely!
  • Make sure you are going fast enough to merge safely.
  • You may have to slow down and move in behind the vehicle traveling beside you. Do not try to "punch it" to get in front of this vehicle. You may run out of room to do so.
  • Look at the highway traffic flow as soon as possible in order to help you determine the opening you will want to accelerate into.
  • When you can't safely merge into the highway traffic--if you have the option to stay in the entry lane as it immediately becomes an exit lane, then do exit--do not stop on the acceleration/exit lane. You usually can then simply loop around on the service (or frontage) roads or local streets and try again.
  • If you are really nervous and there are others in the car, ask them to be quiet so you can focus.
  • Try to merge into traffic with at least one car length of space in front and behind of your vehicle.
  • Remember to check if you can stay in the lane you have just merged into. In several major cities, the right-most lane is a commuter lane that is only open during certain hours.


  • Watch out for vehicles merging into your lane. Many entrances onto a highway are also the exit for the road you just came from.
  • Remember that other drivers may be behind you also trying to merge. Try to provide them space to merge into as well, by moving another lane over if possible.
  • Don't forget to put your turn signal on. It is the best signal to the traffic in the merging lane of what you are about to do.
  • Sometimes, there may be no merge area at the end of the ramp. This will be clearly indicated by signs such as "No Merge Area" or "Yield". In this case you might have to slow down or even stop to make sure you are going to merge into an empty spot in the next lane.

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