How-To Guide: Changing Lanes Safely

Changing Lanes Safely

We’re simplifying basic driving skills into easy-to-understand how-to guides, aiming to make your learning experience smoother.

This time, we’re focusing on a crucial aspect of driving: changing lanes safely. Our guide will outline the key steps to ensure you can switch lanes confidently and safely. Let’s dive into the essentials of performing a lane change without any hassle.

When to Change Lanes

Understanding the key scenarios for changing lanes can significantly enhance your driving experience. We’ll guide you through these situations, providing practical advice to ensure you’re well-prepared for the road ahead.

When to Change Lanes


Overtaking is often necessary when you’re behind a slower vehicle on a dual carriageway or motorway. It’s crucial to ensure it’s both safe and legal before you change lanes to overtake.

At night, be particularly cautious due to decreased visibility, making it harder to judge speed and distance.

After overtaking on a motorway, remember to return to the left-hand lane at the earliest safe opportunity. Avoid using the hard shoulder unless in an emergency or if instructed by the police.

Approaching Junctions

Being in the correct lane is essential when approaching junctions. This means being in the lane that matches the direction you intend to take.

For instance, a right turn requires being in the right-hand lane well in advance. Delayed lane changes can result in missing your turn, so stay alert and plan your lane changes early.

On Dual Carriageways and Motorways

Besides overtaking, lane changes on dual carriageways and motorways are mainly for navigating to the correct exit.

Anticipating your exit and positioning yourself in the appropriate lane ahead of time is key to a smooth journey. Late decisions can lead to missed exits due to traffic congestion.

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Navigating roundabouts requires changing lanes based on your exit. For exits up to 180 degrees, stay in the left or centre lane.

For later exits, move to the right-hand lane. If you’re unsure or it’s unsafe to change lanes, it’s better to circle the roundabout again rather than make a risky lane change.

In the Wrong Lane

Especially for new drivers, finding yourself in the wrong lane can happen. Instead of panicking, stay calm and look for a safe opportunity to change lanes.

If it’s not possible, continue to the next exit or junction and readjust your route from there. Remember, safety always comes first, so avoid making abrupt lane changes.

Changing Lanes Safely

Mastering safe lane changes is essential for every driver. Let’s delve into the MSM routine (Mirrors, Signal, Manoeuvre) to understand how to change lanes securely, regardless of the driving situation.


Preparation is crucial whether you’re overtaking, exiting a motorway, or approaching a junction. Avoid last-minute lane changes, as they’re hazardous and can lead to collisions or unnecessary stress.

Keep an eye out for road signs indicating where you need to be for your intended route. Consider using a sat nav for better route planning and to avoid any sudden lane changes.

Check Mirrors and Blindspots

Mirror and blindspot checks are fundamental. Inspect your interior and side mirrors, and then look over your shoulder to cover your blindspots.

Be particularly vigilant for cyclists and motorcyclists who may move through traffic unexpectedly. Change lanes only when you can do so without causing others to brake or swerve.

If the lane isn’t clear, or if it’s too late to change lanes safely, continue until it’s possible to turn around safely.

Signal Your Intentions

Signalling is your way of communicating with other road users. Once you’ve ensured it’s safe to change lanes, use your indicators to signal your intentions.

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This step is vital for the safety and convenience of all road users, even if the road seems clear. Use the correct indicator based on the direction you’re moving.

If you need to adjust your signal due to the actions of other drivers, do so carefully and recheck your mirrors and blindspots before signalling again.

Change Lanes

Now, you’re ready to change lanes. Maintain your speed and smoothly steer into the new lane without swerving.

This ensures you don’t lose control or surprise other drivers. Once in the new lane, cancel your indicator to avoid confusion.

If your lane change was for overtaking, remember to return to your original lane safely, checking mirrors and blindspots, and signalling before making the move.

Lane discipline, such as not weaving between lanes or straddling lanes, is key to safe driving. By following these steps diligently, you ensure your safety and that of others on the road.

Enhancing Your Lane Changing Skills

For those who prefer a more visual approach to learning or need a bit of extra help grasping the concepts covered, we’ve got just the thing for you.

Video Tutorial

If the text explanations above don’t fully click, or if you simply learn better by watching, there’s an excellent video tutorial available.

This tutorial features an instructor who will guide you through the MSM routine, providing practical examples of real-life scenarios where you might need to change lanes safely.

The video is just under ten minutes long, making it a manageable watch that’s packed with valuable insights to help you master this crucial driving skill.

Frequently asked questions

An unsafe lane change occurs when your action compels other road users to abruptly brake or change lanes to prevent a collision with your vehicle. Your lane change should not disrupt the flow of traffic or pose a risk to the safety of other motorists.

Even if the roads appear clear, it’s advisable to signal before changing lanes. This practice ensures safety in case you overlook a road user while checking your mirrors and blind spots.

It’s a case of being safe rather than sorry. Furthermore, consistently signalling is beneficial for your driving test, as examiners will assess whether you’re correctly observing and signalling.

During your driving lessons with a DVSA-approved instructor, the Mirrors, Signal, and Manoeuvre (MSM) routine is typically introduced in the initial lessons.

After mastering the cockpit drill and clutch control, you’ll begin to practise driving on quiet, residential roads. It is at this stage your instructor will guide you on properly executing the MSM routine.