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Traffic and Transportation Division
38250 Sierra Highway
Palmdale, CA 93550

Open Monday-Thursday
7:30 am-6 pm
Closed Friday

Freeway Driving Skills

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is especially important in freeway driving since entrances and exits are further apart than on other types of roadways. On unfamiliar routes, this will avoid confusion and distractions from the driving task. Planning ahead includes properly maintaining the vehicle and carrying appropriate emergency supplies.

Entering a Freeway

When entering a freeway, obey any ramp signals (meters) and signal when merging with other traffic. Entering a freeway requires the driver to look for gap in traffic and time the approach to enter the traffic flow.

At the same time, drivers must use special care in observing vehicles ahead of them, since they may stop suddenly. Acceleration lanes are provided to allow drivers to match the speed of the freeway traffic as they merge.

If you must slow or stop on a freeway, it should be for emergency purposes only. When re-entering the roadway, wait for a large break in traffic before entering. Do not force others to brake suddenly.

Exiting a Freeway

Drivers should carefully watch guide signs to anticipate their exit and position themselves in the proper lane. Signaling should begin well in advance of the exit.

Do not slow down until you start to turn off the freeway. If you miss an exit, go to the next one. Do not attempt to change lanes and exit the freeway at the last moment. Obey ramp speed limits for both entrances and exits.

Freeway Driving

Much of safe driving is concentrating on driving, avoiding distractions, and applying patience and common sense.

  • Simple practices such as scanning the roadway ahead, accelerating smoothly, being prepared to react, and signaling movements will greatly improve safety. On freeways, one way to build a safe time margin is to look well ahead (at least twelve seconds) to alert you to conditions.
  • Always look carefully and signal at least five seconds before changing lanes. This includes checking both inside and outside rearview mirrors and looking over your shoulder in the direction of the lane change.
  • Avoid any sudden moves. Sudden moves are typically not well planned or checked by the driver, and other drivers are not given adequate time to react.
  • Help other drivers enter and exit the freeway or change lanes. Adjust your speed or, if necessary, move to the next lane if it is clear.
  • Which lane is best to drive depends on traffic conditions. In general, on a two-lane freeway use the right lane for cruising and the left lane for passing. When there are three or more lanes, the right lane should be used by lower speed traffic, the left lane for passing, and the center lane for cruising.
  • Observe restrictions on carpool lanes when they are present. This includes entering and exiting the lanes at the appropriate locations.
  • Do not be distracted or slow down excessively to look at incidents in or near the roadway. This adds to congestion and increases the potential for additional incidents.
  • Choose a legal speed that matches the speed of other traffic. Speeds that are either slower or faster than that of most other traffic will increase the risk of incidents.


Vehicles should be kept in good operating condition to avoid mechanical failures which may directly result in an incident or expose the driver and passengers to repairs or seeking help near the roadway. Special care should be given to tire pressure (including spare tire), fan belts, hoses, and coolants.

Emergency supplies should be maintained in the vehicle. The following actions may be of assistance in case of breakdown.

  • Turn on emergency flashers and pull completely off the roadway.
  • Set up flares or triangles behind the vehicle.
  • Raise the hood and tie a white cloth to the door handle.
  • Stay in the vehicle if it is clear of traffic.
  • Ask stopping motorists to alert a service station or the police.
  • Many freeways have motorist services telephones at regular intervals. Drive or walk to a motorist services telephone only if it is safe to do so.
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38300 Sierra Highway, Palmdale, CA 93550 · 661/267-5100 · 661/267-5122 - fax

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