Tips & Tricks for Lane Positioning & Spatial Awareness New Drivers Should Know
Good lane position is essential for traffic moving smoothly on the road. Watch instructor Liz go over basic techniques for proper lane positioning and spatial awareness in a residential setting. Together with Liz you will find out how taking in the "big picture" will not only help you guide your car down the center of your lane, but will also help you identify and avoid hazards like oncoming vehicles, and keep you from getting too close to parked cars.
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Residential Lane Positioning & Spatial Awareness Basics
Residential Neighborhood without Lane Lines
- Imagine there is a yellow line down the center of the road and stay to the right of this imaginary line.
- Pretend another car is driving towards you and be sure you both have enough room to fit on the road.
Maintaining a Consistent Lane Position
- Aim high! Select a visual target in the center of your lane about a block or two down the road, or 10-15 seconds ahead.
- Keep your eyes scanning, taking in the "big picture" to help keep your car centered in your lane.
- Maintain a firm, but gentle grip on the steering wheel, making small steering corrections when needed. Don't squeeze the wheel too tight, or hold it too loosely.
Lane Position Next to Parked Cars
- When approaching parked vehicles on the side of the road, picture your lane is moving to the left and adjust your lane positioning, too.
- Give parked vehicles at least 3-4 feet space cushion, in case a car door should suddenly open.
- If there is no oncoming traffic, you can be a little left of center if it's necessary to keep a safe distance from parked cars.
- Don't stare at parked cars or you will tend to gravitate towards them. Guide your car by looking farther down the center of the road.
Handling Oncoming Traffic and Parked Cars at the Same Time
- Slow down to give yourself more control over your positioning and more time to react to potential hazards.
- Position yourself evenly between the oncoming traffic and parked cars, being a little closer to the parked cars' side, if necessary.
- Pull over to the right side of the road and stop if necessary to accommodate oncoming vehicles on narrow roads.
Space Cushion to the Front
- Maintain a minimum 3 second space cushion at all times with the vehicle to the front of you.
- Establish a 3 second space cushion by choosing a fixed object in the road that the car in front of you passes. Count the seconds it takes for you to reach that same fixed object. If you count less than 3 seconds, you are following too closely.
- Increase your space cushion to 4 seconds or more if you are driving an SUV or there are adverse weather or road conditions.
Lane Position and Spatial Awareness, Video Transcript
Hello current and future drivers of the world, it's Liz with Drivers Ed Direct! I'm here today to breakdown lane positioning and spatial awareness in residential neighborhoods.
Navigating residential roads can be challenging for new drivers because most of these roads are two-way streets that do not have road markings or lane lines separating the different directions of traffic. It is important for you to identify your driving lane on the right side of the road and remain centered in it as much as possible, as this will be the safest place for you to be, especially when there is other traffic present.
When driving in a residential neighborhood without lane lines, imagine a yellow line running down the center of the road, dividing the road into two lanes. Your job is to stay to the right of this imaginary line. In many residential neighborhoods you will see sewer manholes near the center of the street -- these often times can help you visually divide the road into two. Also, you can easily imagine another oncoming car driving towards you -- would you both have enough room to fit on the road? If not, you need to move more to the right.
Once you have the road divided in half, the next challenge is maintaining a consistent lane position within your side of the road. To do this, you want to "aim high" and select a visual target in the center of your lane a good distance down the road -- we recommend consistently scanning the road 10-15 seconds ahead, or about a block or two down the road. By looking farther down the road and taking in the "big picture", your car should more or less stay centered in your lane automatically. Though you may need to make small corrections, even on a straight road, these adjustments are usually subtle and require very small movements of the wheel. If you are having trouble maintaining a straight line, make sure you are not squeezing the wheel too tight, or holding it too loosely. You want to maintain a firm, yet gentle grip without oversteering. Driving is not like a video game where you keep moving the wheel back and forth continually. Think of it like you are "babysitting the wheel", just keeping it secure and making gentle corrections when needed.
Not only is the "big picture" driving technique key to maintaining your lane position, it also allows you to identify potential hazards earlier. If you "aim low" and try to guide your car by staring a few feet in front of you, you will most likely veer to your left towards oncoming traffic and also will not identify potential hazards until it is too late. Anytime you fixate on a single object, you tend to gravitate towards it.
Now that you've mastered keeping a consistent lane position on the right side of the road, you need to learn how to handle parked cars. When you approach a parked car on the right side of the road, imagine that the lane you are in is moving over to the left and that you must move over to the left as well, giving the parked car ample space. Always assume that someone could open their car door at any moment. For this reason, give at least 3-4 feet of distance from a parked car. If no oncoming traffic is approaching, it is okay to move slightly into the center of the road to give the parked car enough space.
A common mistake new drivers make with parked cars is staring at them because they are nervous about hitting them. Remember, anytime you stare at an object you tend to gravitate towards it. The best way not to hit a parked car is to know your lane position and guide your car by looking farther down the center of the road. Aim high!
Sometimes you will be faced with both oncoming traffic and parked cars, making your lane of travel more narrow and potentially dangerous. In these situations, slowing down will help you immensely by giving you more control over your positioning and more time to react to potential hazards, like a car door suddenly swinging open. You ideally want to position yourself evenly between the oncoming traffic and parked cars, erroring on being a little closer to the parked cars which are less dangerous than oncoming traffic. If the road is so narrow that you are not sure you can safely fit between the parked car and oncoming traffic, then yield the right of way to the oncoming vehicle and let them pass before proceeding.
So far we've talked about spatial awareness with our main focus being on oncoming traffic and parked cars, but let's not forget about vehicles in our own lane in front of us. We always need to keep a safe 3-4 second space cushion with the vehicle in front of us. You can determine how far 3-4 seconds is by choosing any fixed object in the road that the car in front of you passes and then counting the time it takes for you to reach that same fixed object. Confused? Let's quickly demonstrate how we determine a 3 second space cushion. Watch the SUV in front of us, as soon as that SUV passes that parked car to the right, let's start counting one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand. It took us 3 seconds to pass the same parked car. That's a three seconds space cushion, and that's how far we want to be behind another vehicle when driving conditions are ideal. If the roads are wet or you are driving a heavier truck or SUV that takes longer to brake, then you want to give yourself an extra second cushion, or 4-seconds total. At residential speeds, a 3-4 second space cushion is about 2-3 car lengths. As you move to faster moving streets, you will see that 3-4 seconds is a much greater distance than 2-3 car lengths... but that's a topic for another video!
Now you know all about how to keep a safe lane position with cars all around your vehicle. Thanks for watching, and if you enjoyed this video, please take a quick second to subscribe to our channel where you'll find more helpful videos just like this one! From Liz and everyone at Drivers Ed Direct, stay safe out there!