Maintaining Proper Lane Position
Are some of us such poor drivers that we can't even stay between the lines on the highway? I was driving home and met a pickup truck completely onto my side of the double solid line in a set of winding curves. Was the driver not paying attention or was he so intent on not slowing down that he straightened out the corners to avoid braking? I suspect that it was the latter.
The Basics: Roads With No Lines
The simplest road does not have any lines painted on it and one of the first things that we learn is that we drive on the right half of a two lane road and may only use the other half in limited circumstances. You must drive on your half unless it is not practical to do so.
You will have to be able to justify the impracticality if you find yourself in traffic court disputing a ticket or civil court following a collision.
Staying Between the Lines
It seems pretty obvious that failing to stay between the lines is not a good thing for any driver to get into the habit of. There is likely to be other traffic, either beside us or oncoming in the left lane. Ditto for the right lane or shoulder. Yes, the shoulder. This is where you will find cyclists and pedestrians. In fact, if there is no shoulder, you will find cyclists and pedestrians using the edge of the roadway and they are entitled to be there.
As a driver, your aim (pun intended) is to maintain a proper lane position at all times. It's implicit in our highway system because we all share the same sheet of pavement or stretch of gravel. When we don't, we risk running into each other. You are not being overly cautious, you are fitting into a system where safety dictates that we all manage space around us properly to avoid collisions.
On highways with multiple lanes for our direction of travel we need to stay consistently within the lane that we have chosen to use.
Nobody Else Is Around
You might be thinking of interrupting me at this point and suggesting that it doesn't matter when no one else is around. Odd, but I've had many drivers say that to me when I was asking for their autograph on a traffic ticket. If no one else was around them, how could I be there?
The point that I want to make by saying this is that if you do it right all the time, you will probably have a better outcome when you fail to see or allow for the presence of another road user.
Look Up and Look Ahead
So, what's the best way to confine the path of your vehicle to where it is supposed to go? That will depend on what you are driving and how you choose reference points on your vehicle to guide you. When your vehicle is correctly positioned you will need to know it's limits on all four sides, so choose wisely.
Tips for Maintaining Lane Position
- Look well ahead at the center of the lane that you are driving in
- Keep your hands level on the steering wheel
- Keep your grip on the steering wheel relaxed but grip tightly enough for control
- Do not focus exclusively on the vehicle in front of you, keep your eyes moving
- Do not focus on the edges of the road just in front of your vehicle
- Establish reference points for the edges of the road in relation to the front of your vehicle when it is properly positioned
- Maintain sufficient and equal tire pressure
- Maintain proper wheel alignment for your vehicle
This YouTube video is a good review of the driving actions to follow for proper lane position. The only issue that I have with it is that you are advised to hold the steering wheel at 10 and 2. This is no longer recognized as the best choice due to the driver's airbag.
Large Commercial Vehicles
As a former long haul Owner / Operator, I learned to check my mirrors to make sure I was equal spaced between the lines.
Experience in the UK
I'm currently in the UK, and was driving in London (out of main tourist areas), and one of my comments was that line markings are a figment of the imagination - not only are they incredibly impatient, they drive way over the posted speed limit, drive in the bus lane when it suits, on your side when it suits, and expect you to get out of the way!
Interesting experience, returning to Canada though I have noticed the same. A lot of people are incapable of taking a slight curve without cutting the marked lines, same on left turns at a light where there are no markings but 2 lanes turning left, the right line cuts across the left lane forcing a bad line to make a smooth turn.
Now to drive from up north to London again to fly south to another interesting drive over the next few days.
I find this violation a serious issue with drivers of today with so many other problems that plague our roads. As a pedestrian, walking facing traffic, without sidewalks, I am constantly making a leap to the bushes as the oncoming traffic crosses/cuts those white lines, not just centre. Drivers have issues in parking lots as well. I was taught to always know where my tires are the rest will follow. The speed mongers, impatient, entitlements, can’t be second and wait your turn is the accepted driving habits of today. I suspect those that can’t stay between the lines were also very lousy at colouring!
Keep Your Eyes Up and Look Ahead
This is key, and a fundamental aspect of training someone to drive. But it's often missed, even by professional Driving Instructors; and the majority of new drivers never take any kind of formal driver education.
A driver can only place his/her vehicle on the roadway properly if he/she understands the size of the blind zone - not to be confused with the blind spots, this blind zone is the road surface area around the vehicle that cannot be seen from behind the wheel. Typically, and dependent on both the height of the driver and the type of car, it will extend about a full vehicle length ahead of the front bumper, a full vehicle width to the left side, at least two vehicle widths to the right side, and easily three vehicle lengths or more behind the back bumper.
If a driver doesn't understand this massive area that surrounds them, and therefore the necessity to aim high at the centre of the lane where they want to put the vehicle, they will resort to driving by avoidance. You see this all the time; avoiding parked cars (so they move left in their lane), avoiding centre barriers (so they move right in their lane), or this example from an earlier post:
These days, I spend most of my time working with drivers who are already experienced behind the wheel. And because I'm an analyst, I can quickly identify these behaviours, which is crucial to correcting them; it's remarkable how many drivers don't actually know how far they are from the stop line in front of them, or how far they may have proceeded into an intersection; they're not stupid, they're ignorant - nobody ever taught them these fundamentals. Any fool can say 'you did that wrong', but it takes a good instructor to explain why they got it wrong, and how to fix it.
Nuts, isn't it? Drivers need to understand that because driving is necessarily about movement, you can't ever change where you is; you can only change where you will be. This, along with the need to comprehend that, generally, we don't collide with what we have seen but with what we didn't see, notice, look for, or anticipate.
The ones that bug me are the oncoming drivers who, when confronted with a stationary obstacle on their side of the road, seem to think it's OK to cross the centre line to go around it, even though that puts them on my side of the road and forces me to brake in order to accommodate their decision to steer instead of stop. I'm not an aggressive guy, but I must admit I prefer driving my big white Econoline instead of my wife's Accord in these situations; they tend to think twice when confronted with a dominant vehicle. Sometimes, I really miss my Mack, you know?
Drive In The Center
The position of a vehicle that is not on the wrong side of the roadway, but travelling where a roadway is wider than a standard lane.
It is common sense and good practice to drive in the centre of the marked lane for traffic on a laned roadway. In fact usually we see the poor or inexperienced driver to be the one driving to the right of centre on a standard width marked lane. But what about the many streets that are marked with just a centre line. Instead of the standard 3.3 metre width of a normal city traffic lanes on laned roadways or the 3.5 metre highway lane with the fog line on the right, we have an expanse of 8 metres or more between the marked centre line and the right curb on many side streets.
There are lots of driving practices that aren’t illegal, shoulder checking, for example, the resulting unsafe lane change is. There is also no traffic law that requires a vehicle to travel next to the centre line on a single lane roadway. The only rule is “right of the centre line”.
Ironically I see it often on Green Avenue in Penticton (west bound towards the Channel Parkway). I did a quick google search and didn’t find a thing on the practice of travelling a distance from the centre line and it’s pros and cons.
I went into Google map just to illustrate the wide road scenario at that location and lo and behold the street view of the location showed a vehicle in the exact position I’m discussing, travelling about 10 feet to the right of the centre line, 5 feet from the right curb.
I feel the practice is dangerous, in that it can confuse other traffic, but that said I’ve never seen any suggestions of driving good practice to situate a vehicle such that it is adjacent to the centre line.
Vehicluar 'Body Language' ...
Well said! As a Driving Instructor, I've always realized that the best way to teach a skill or behaviour is to have some solid reasoning behind it. Then the new driver wants to own it, instead of feeling that it's simply what the law says.
In the case of a wide street, where a driver might wander around (often 'avoiding' parked cars on the right) the best reason to stay relatively close to the centre line, driving in a straight line, is visibility. The driver has the best, earliest chance to spot potential conflicts approaching intersections whilst also being visible soonest to those road users - including pedestrians and cyclists - who could come into conflict.
It also leaves the best safety margin to the right, so there's less chance of some driver swinging his car door open into your path, or some cyclist riding along suddenly dodging a drain or something near the curb.
Some drivers are downright sloppy with their vehicle positioning. Those idiots about to turn right without attempting to move closer to the right curb prior to the turn (this is illegal under Section 165, by the way) and thus impeding vehicles coming up behind. Or those idiots about to turn left without attempting to stay close to the centreline (also illegal under Section 165) as they wait for a gap and thus impeding vehicles attempting to pass them - completely legally - on their right. What is wrong with these fools? Why don't they understand the space they're in? Rhetorical question ...
In reference to 'Vehicular Body Language' then, both the law and common sense dictate that the positioning and speed of the vehicle (not to mention the turn signals) should provide some indication of where its going next. *
The best argument I ever heard for a driver to avoid driving adjacent to the centreline is in case an oncoming vehicle wanders over to your side. Highly unlikely - a mobile phone user is far more likely to place her/his vehicle in the middle of their lane, so they don't have to glance up as often to see where they're going - and if it's someone having a sudden medical event, then they could veer in any direction, slightly or sharply. But if you're driving straight on course and scanning constantly, then you're far more likely to see this crash coming and be able to mitigate or avoid it effectively.
* Different issue, here. Same subject. But how 'vehicular body language' also applies at 4-Way Stops.
Although 4-Way Stops don't actually 'exist' under the MVA & Regs, the traffic engineers employ them at many intersections. Ironically, the most aggressive drivers have the hardest time, as they typically - and illegally - overshoot their stop line every time. Which then makes it more difficult for other drivers at the intersection to identify when they're attempting to enter the intersection and take their turn.
But intelligent drivers time themselves to stop at their stop sign - behind the line - so that they're clearly giving right of way to everyone who got there first, but also when they figure it's their turn, they can start rolling forward to establish that they figure it's their turn. Amazing communication skills, demonstrated just by doing what the law requires.
Is Your Vehicle Too Big For You?
I’d like to say its people all driving vehicles that are way to big for them, but that may be more a matter of so many people driving massive SUVs that they represent most drivers now, than the fact they are hard to keep between the lines (I mean, if I can take a Kenworth with a 40’ trailer down Broadway all the way to UBC and stay in my own lane you would think a Range Rover wouldn’t be a real challenge)
I may be that people have very poor personal vehicle awareness (they have no idea where their corners are, or how to set up their mirrors) or, as you allude to, very poor eye lead time, or, they just don’t care (I’m big and you can just deal with it)
That, and distracted driving (hard to have good eye lead time if you’re looking at your lap)
It seems to be almost a prevalent as people who can't turn their lights on at night (I have not driven into, in, or out of Vancouver after dark in three years without seeing at least one car with its lights off each time. And its not just carshare drivers.)
Knowing where your wheels are
I believe our modern roads are at fault. When I learned to drive you had to know where your wheels were to avoid the pothole or to have your wheels stay ontop of the berm to get through a mudhole. If you lived anywhere outside of a major city you had to know this.
When I have taught someone to drive I take them to the local gravel pit and setup rocks for them to hit. Don't proceed to the roads till they have accomplished this.