Driving with your mind wide open from BlueStormAuto


Lane Discipline

“Lane Discipline” is simply the act of using the correct lane, in the correct way, for a given situation.

This requires two things: 

1.       Awareness of what is correct, and

2.       Acting upon that knowledge.


#2 is up to you, but hopefully this page can help with #1. Prevailing laws always take precedence so find out what’s “correct” in your area.


Understanding and observing Lane Discipline is one of the greatest gifts we can bestow on fellow travelers, and the single greatest step we can take to avoid causing road rage.


...in Highway Lanes

·        Let’s cut to the chase; passing on the right is illegal in most situations. Luckily with correct lane discipline we can eliminate most illegal passing.

·        Lane Discipline on the Highway (in countries like America and Germany that drive on the right side of the road):

o   Drive Right, Pass Left. If there is a lane available to the right, you should be in it.

o   Keep Right Except to Pass. This road sign is found in many states, and while it should not be necessary, it’s a good mantra to repeat as you travel on the highway.

o   If there are three lanes, you should travel in the right-most lane that is available.

o   Don’t drive in the middle lane of a three-lane road unless it’s a highly congested area or the flow of your lane’s speed is consistently passing cars in the next lane to the right.

o   Don’t automatically dive to the left when you see traffic coming down an on-ramp. It’s the job of cars on the on-ramp to insert themselves into the flow of traffic if they can safely do so. Your job is to maintain a constant speed to ease their calculations. If the next lane to the left is clear for some distance to your rear, and you’re not driving a truck or other large vehicle or towing a trailer, you may signal into the next lane to the left to make way.

·        Tip - Don’t be a Left Lane Bandit who steals the passing lane(s) from other drivers. There is usually some selfish behavior driving this practice, and selfish drivers are bad drivers.

·        Tip - Survey the flow of traffic before passing. If you’re going *slightly* faster than the car in front of you, and cars about to overtake you are traveling significantly faster, it may be better for everyone to slow slightly and delay your pass until the faster cars pass. In this situation your wait is barely noticeable while their delay (if you pull in front of them) will be much longer.

·        Tip - Don’t be *The Clot.* Don’t block faster traffic by traveling the same or nearly the same speed as the car beside you. Even if you began your pass with cruise control and the car beside you has (usually subconsciously) matched your speed, you should accelerate (when safe), complete your pass, and surrender the passing lane.

·        Selfish Poor Excuses – these lame stories do NOT make it OK to obstruct a left lane and block faster traffic.

o   “I have to take a left exit in 3 / 5 / 10+ miles.” Use your head. In most cases it will be easy (and far more courteous) to make your move to the left in the last mile.

o   “There are multiple on-ramps in this area and it’s more convenient for me to stay in the fast lane while I pass these 4 / 10 / 20+ exits.”

o   “I’m towing a trailer / driving a motor home / old / tired / bored and it’s more convenient for me to stay in the left-most lane for my entire trip.” This is truly inexcusable.

o   “When there is this much traffic, I feel stressed-out. It’s easier just to stay in the left lane until I’m through this area.”

·        Often your convenience comes at a cost for other drivers. Selfish drivers are bad drivers.


·      …in Center Turning or “Suicide” Lanes

·        Some areas, usually highly-developed areas with many consecutive commercial entrances, have a Center Turning Lane, a sort-of free-for-all lane where it’s legal for traffic turning in either direction to wait for an opening. The Center Turning Lane increases safety by keeping the traveling lanes flowing, and offering turning cars a safe place to wait. Because traffic moving in either direction can enter the Center Turning Lane, which sometimes leads to chaotic moments, they are sometimes called a “Suicide Lane,” but with these tips in mind, the Center Turning lane makes travel safer for all of us.

·        Always signal before entering the Center Turning Lane and keep your signal on.

·        DO NOT turn your wheels prematurely. In any situation where you’re waiting to turn you should point your wheels at where you want to go if you’re rear-ended. In most cases this will be straight ahead.

·        Engage your turn signal before your brakes. If brake lights precede the turn signal, you have failed.

·        Generally most or all of your deceleration should take place in the turning lane, not the traveling lane.

·        Generally you should enter the Center Turning Lane just before your turn, or after the previous establishment’s entrance. Obviously this is not always possible.

o   Behaviors to Avoid - One extreme is the car that comes to a complete stop in the traveling lane, then turns across the Center Turning lane.

o   Behaviors to Avoid – The other extreme is the car that drives down that Center Turning Lane at full speed, gliding into their turn a half-block up the road.

o   It’s hard to describe the optimim time to enter the Center Turning Lane, but it’s always somewhere between these two extremes. Use your head.


·      …at Intersections with Turning Lanes

·        If the Intersection Turning Lane follows or grows out of a Center Turning Lane, it’s not necessary to wait until the last minute where the paint changes and abruptly enter the turning lane. It may be smoother, more decisive, and certainly more courteous to signal and do most or all of your deceleration in the center / turning lane.

·        A Left Turn Lane applies to the next traffic light. This seems obvious but we’ve all seen drivers who seem to think that the left turn lane applies to any “future left turn” that may occur at one of the next 2 or 3 lights. Use your head.

·        Signal before entering the turning lane.

·        Signal before applying  your brake lights.


·      …at Intersections with no Turning Lanes

·        We’ve all seen commercial driveways that are broken into three parts. From the driveway facing out:

1.     The left third is an “in” lane for cars entering the driveway from either direction,

2.     The middle third is an “out” lane for vehicles turning left, and

3.     The right third is an “out” lane for vehicles turning right.

This logic applies to ALL driveways and intersections without turning lanes.

·         Behaviors to Avoid – Drifting so far to the right when turning left that right-turning cars behind you must wait. This is senseless. Use your head.

o   Instead, when turning left, use the middle of the intersection or driveway so cars turning right can get on with their lives. On roads with painted lines the best you can legally do is to hug the center line with the left side of your car.


·      …on Two-Lane Roads

Two-lane road have fewer opportunities for lane-discipline than highways, but here are some situations where we can exercise lane discipline.

·        When turning left from a two-lane road, hug the center line so cars behind can carefully move past you on the right.

·        Behaviors to avoid – Turning left from the far right side of your lane.

o   The most compelling reason not to do this is if your turn signal is either not functioning, not visible, or broken, drivers approaching from behind may assume you’re turning right and attempt to pass on the left. This could be fatal.

o   Whether this is an inadvertent “swing wide” action or an intentional attempt to block cars from passing you on the right, it’s better to exercise some discipline and courtesy and make it obvious that you’re turning left by putting your car on the far left side of your lane.



Many travelers visiting Europe are impressed with the lane discipline demonstrated by *most* European drivers. The best example may be the German Autobahn, where many sections have three lanes and no speed limits. On the Autobahn most drivers automatically move to the right if there is a lane available, signal before (not just during) lane changes, and rarely impede faster traffic. My German friend praised the Autobahn saying “It is the privilege of all Germans to drive fast,” and his statement summarizes the key philosophical difference between Americans and the rest of the world. Americans see driving as a convenience, a right even, but it is not. Driving is a privilege that must be earned and respected. Every time we take the wheel we should be thinking of how to drive better today than we did yesterday.



Copyright 2012 Blue Storm Auto, LLC.


Disclaimer:  Content herein is opinion only. Publisher cannot be held responsible for predicting every driving situation. Prevailing laws always take precedence. Every driver is responsible for making their decisions based on a given situation.