Driving your car on the highway? Top rules and tips to follow

Team Ackodrive6, Jun, 2022

A road trip means you often end up driving on highways, and car driving on highways brings its challenges to the table. It can be relaxing, but it also requires your utmost concentration due to the high-speed traffic around you. Even the smallest of mistakes can cost you dearly due to the speed at which you drive. In this article, we discuss the top highway driving rules and tips. So, buckle up your seat belts, shift to the cruising gear and read on!

Driving your car on the highway

Highway driving rules in India

Adhering to the traffic rules is of paramount importance irrespective of the type of road you are driving on. It may be a National Highway, State Highway or a narrow street in your locality. The significance of following rules amplifies when you are on the highway due to the speed of your car and other vehicles. Below are the rules you should follow when driving on the highways.

  • Indicate when you change lanes: One of India's important lane discipline rules is warning other motorists about your manoeuvres on the road. Always use the turn indicators when you wish to change lanes. That way, the vehicles behind you will act accordingly. Abrupt change of lanes without indication can lead to severe accidents.

  • Follow speed-oriented lane rule: Another common highway lane rule in India is the speed-oriented lane rule. In other words, all slow-moving vehicles like trucks, buses, etc., should stick to the left lane, and fast-moving vehicles like cars should stay on the right lane. This rule avoids overtaking from the left side, which is a common sight on Indian roads. However, one should never overtake from the wrong side.

  • Follow direction-oriented lane rule: Typically, highways have two or three lanes on each side. If you wish to turn right on a three-lane road, you must stick to the right lane. Similarly, if you are heading straight, you can drive on the middle lane, and if you intend to exit the highway, you should always drive on the left lane.

  • Slow down when approaching an intersection: Highways with crossings/intersections can be tricky as there will be movement of vehicles and pedestrians crossing the highway. Hence, you should always reduce the speed when approaching an intersection. It also gives you more reaction time if something unexpected happens. Watch out for signboards, road markings or signal lights that indicate an intersection ahead.

  • Never overspeed: The speed limit will be mentioned on the signboards when you hit a highway. Never cross the speed limit as it can be dangerous if you have to deal with unexpected things like cattle crossing the road, a vehicle changing lanes abruptly, etc. So, always drive at a speed at which you can safely control the car.

  • Never overtake on the left side: Overtaking from the left side can be dangerous, especially when you overtake heavy vehicles. Because you will be in the blind spot of the car/heavy vehicle you are about to overtake. Hence, it’s better to overtake from the right side with proper indication. However, if you are forced to make an overtake from the wrong side, make sure that you indicate the vehicle ahead by flashing your headlights/honking before committing to overtake.

  • Use hazard lights in case of vehicle breakdown: If your car breaks down in the middle of the highway, park the vehicle on the shoulder of the road and switch on the hazard lights to warn the oncoming traffic. You can also place a reflecting triangle board to indicate the vehicle breakdown.

Also, read: 5 Measures Taken by Officials to Reduce Road Accidents

How to prepare your car for a road trip?

Road trips mean excitement, but you should not forget the precautionary measures before setting off. Your car should be in excellent shape for a safe road trip. Hence, it’s better to do a thorough check-up of your vehicle before starting a road trip. Below are the checks you can perform on your car before leaving for a long drive.

  • First and foremost, check all the tyres thoroughly. Ensure that there is a good amount of tread since you will be driving at high speeds. If the tyres are worn out, replace them.

  • Check the tyre pressure, and refill if necessary.

  • Check all the vital fluids such as engine oil, coolant, washer fluid, etc. Ensure that all fluids are at their optimum level and top up if necessary.

  • Check the wiper blades and replace them if necessary.

  • Check If all the lights are working correctly.

  • Next, take the car for a short spin and check if the wheel alignment is proper. Also, watch out for any weird noises coming from the brakes, suspension and chassis.

  • If you find any issues with the brakes, suspension or chassis, visit the service centre to get it fixed before you leave for the road trip.

  • Check the fuel level and, if required, refill. It’s better to fill a full tank of fuel so that you do not need to stop unnecessarily.

  • Lastly, make sure you keep a copy of all the vehicle and driver-related documents in your car’s glove box. Soft copies of the documents will also do. However, it’s better to carry the original documents if you are going on an interstate road trip.

Apart from the tips mentioned above, you also need to plan the route before leaving. Plan the route in such a way that you avoid entering cities and busy roads. You can use any map application to figure out the best route. Planning the route saves you a lot of time, and you can drive without any worries.

Tips for a long drive in a car in India

If you are an experienced driver, car driving on highways may not seem like an uphill task. However, highway driving may seem like an intimidating task for someone who has recently learnt to drive. But if you follow the rules and drive within your limits, you can be safe on the highway. Below are some of the highway driving tips for new drivers in India.

  • Maintain a constant speed: Highways are meant for fast movement of traffic. You cannot be driving too slow on a highway. Doing so will put other motorists in danger. Hence, maintain a constant speed close to the speed limit on that particular road. However, if the road is wet or there is heavy traffic, or during the night, you can slow down a bit until the visibility or road conditions improve. You should be smart enough to analyse the road and stick to a speed.

  • Be mindful when changing lanes: Changing lanes is one of the crucial driving manoeuvres, and its importance amplifies when you are driving on a highway due to the high speed of the traffic. Before you decide to change lanes, analyse the speed difference between the two lanes and accordingly adjust the speed of your car. Always use the turn indicators when switching lanes. Also, never drive in the wrong lane. For example, never drive too slowly on the fast lane (right lane).

  • Maintain a safe distance between vehicles: Always maintain a safe distance between your car and other vehicles around you. Traffic is unpredictable, and the vehicle ahead of you can suddenly brake or steer to avoid an obstacle. Maintaining a safe distance gives you enough time to tackle such situations. Typically, you should always follow the 3-second rule, that is, you stay 3 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. At night the gap can be increased to 5 seconds.

  • Overtake judgement and timing: Majority of the highway accidents occur due to incorrect judgement while overtaking. It’s crucial to anticipate the speed of the vehicle ahead. Also, you need to check the vehicles approaching behind you before you pull out of the lane. Ensure that the car is in the correct gear and then proceed with the overtake. Post that, do not suddenly move back to the driving lane. Build enough gap to the vehicle behind and return to the driving lane.

If you are driving on single carriageways, you have to be even more careful. Here you have to keep an eye on the vehicles approaching from behind and vehicles coming from the front in the opposite lane. Go ahead with the overtake if you feel that there is a safe distance between your car and the oncoming traffic.

You should exit the opposite lane as soon as possible without cutting off the vehicle you overtook. Never hesitate during such manoeuvres as it could reduce the distance between you and the oncoming traffic and force the vehicle behind you to brake suddenly.

  • Use appropriate signals: You have to be mindful of the movement of vehicles around you when changing lanes, overtaking or stopping on the side of the road. Always use turn indicators and hazard lights accordingly. Also, ensure that you indicate the oncoming traffic when you join the highway after a stop.

  • Check the mirrors: Mirrors are the extra set of eyes when driving. It is crucial to check your mirrors constantly. A glance at all three mirrors: two rearview mirrors and one interior rearview mirror. Before you wish to make an overtake or change lanes, the first thing to do is check the mirrors to see if any vehicle is approaching from behind. Sometimes, the vehicle may be in your blind spot. To solve that problem, you can install blindspot mirrors in your car.

  • Regular breaks: Make it a habit of stopping at regular intervals while on a long drive. Fatigue can kick in if you drive for a very long duration. And fatigue may lead to you losing control of the vehicle and causing an accident. So, it’s better to refresh yourself by taking adequate breaks.

Driving at a constant speed, at contrast cabin temperature for long hours, may lead to a phenomenon called highway hypnosis. It causes you to enter a trance-like state. By taking regular breaks, you feel the change in temperature, which helps you stay alert. If you are not driving alone, you can swap drivers if you feel drowsy.

  • Drive cautiously on wet roads: Wet weather conditions compound the risk factor when driving on a highway. Avoid driving at high speeds as the grip may be unpredictable due to poorly maintained vehicles leaking oil and other fluids. Also, avoid driving through pools of water as your car could spin out of control due to poor grip. Be gentle on the brakes and accelerator to avoid any loss of traction. If it’s raining heavily, switch on the headlights even during the daytime. Also, do not use hazard lights when driving in the rain.

  • Stay calm during vehicle breakdown: Vehicle breakdown is an unfortunate situation. But you need to stay calm and follow the following steps. Do not panic; slow down the car and park it on the highway shoulder. Switch on the hazard lights and place the hazard triangle behind the vehicle. If possible, examine the damage and look for highway assistance contact numbers or emergency call boxes. At night switch the interior lights to be more visible to the traffic. Stay inside the vehicle until the help arrives.

Tips to follow while driving at night

The first tip for highway driving at night is to avoid driving at night as much as possible. However, if you are bound to drive at night under unavoidable circumstances, you can follow the below tips.

  • Before you start driving, check your car’s headlights and taillights. Clean them if required.

  • Keep the windshield clean. Clean it with the washer fluid or give it a thorough wipe with water.

  • Adjust the headlight position as per your seating position.

  • Avoid using high beams while overtaking or when a vehicle is right in front of you.

  • Stay vigilant as the heavy vehicle traffic will be high during nighttime. Also, the truck and bus drives may be drowsy, and their reaction time may be slow. Hence, defensive driving is the way to go while driving at night.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are some of the frequently asked questions and answers related to car driving on highways.

How fast can I drive my car on a highway?

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The speed you can drive on a highway depends on the speed limit on that particular stretch of road. It’s better to stay close to the speed limit to avoid driving at a slow speed relative to the traffic.

Is it easy to drive my car on a highway?

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Driving on the highway is like driving on any other road. The only difference is the speed. The rest of the rules and driving techniques remain almost the same. Suppose you are driving on the highway for the first time; no need to panic. Follow the rules, be attentive and drive within the speed limits.

What to do if a truck is moving slowly in the right lane?

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All slow-moving vehicles should stick to the left lane. But in India, we see many trucks and buses moving slowly in the right lane. Alert the driver and overtake the heavy vehicle if you encounter such a situation. Honk and flash your lights before overtaking.

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