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What Is an Unsafe Lane Change?

unsafe lane change

Almost every motorist has found themselves, at one time or another, driving down the road, minding their business, when they suddenly encounter another driver in an adjacent lane wanting to merge in front of them. 

It can be stressful not knowing how to handle the situation. You may wonder if you should slow down, change lanes yourself, or something else. A motorist looking to change lanes is also likely a bit tense, wondering if they have enough time and space to merge in safely. Situations like these may cause drivers to do something unsafe, including cutting off a fellow motorist or making an unsafe lane change.

What Constitutes an Unsafe Lane Change?

An unsafe lane change is any time a driver changes lanes without first ensuring it is safe to do so. A lane change may be deemed as unsafe if a motorist:

  • Doesn’t check their mirrors
  • Doesn’t use their turn signal
  • Cuts off another driver

Unsafe lane changes are a leading cause of car accidents, so it’s important to be aware of them and learn how to avoid them.

Unsafe Lane Changing Tactics That Motorists Employ

There are a few different approaches motorists use in changing lanes that are remarkably unsafe, including:

  • Not checking mirrors: Motorists rely on the senses, memory, quickly glancing over their shoulder, and every other tactic aside from using their rearview mirror to ensure the coast is clear when changing lanes. You should always use your mirrors to ensure there isn’t a vehicle fast approaching in the adjacent lane.
  • Weaving in and out of lanes: Frequently traveling between lanes isn’t only dangerous, but it is also illegal in most jurisdictions. Weaving makes it difficult for other drivers to predict your next move, which could lead to an accident.
  • Not using turn signals: Drivers should always use turn signals when changing lanes. Doing so lets other drivers know what your intentions are so that they can prepare for the eventuality that they need to swerve or stop suddenly.
  • Cutting off other drivers: This is when a driver changes lanes and does not leave enough space between their car and the vehicle in the adjacent lane. This driving approach can force other drivers to need to brake suddenly or swerve out of the way, which could cause an accident.
  • Merging improperly: You should always yield to the cars already on the highway or in traffic when merging in. Accidents often occur when motorists wrongly assume that they can merge in off an interstate on-ramp, for example, as they please. Drivers operating their vehicles in active traffic have the right of way. Don’t just merge in. Doing so could cause an accident.
  • Driving between two lanes: This concept, also known as “lane splitting,” is illegal in most jurisdictions. Driving between two lanes of traffic is dangerous because it leaves your vehicle vulnerable to being struck by motorists traveling in lanes on either side of you.
  • Changing lanes then suddenly braking: This tactic is called “brake-checking” and is extremely dangerous. If you are changing lanes and need to brake or slow down, do so gradually, so the car behind you has time to react. Sudden braking could cause the motorist you pull in front of to rear-end your vehicle.
  • Passing on double yellow: This driving tactic is common on two-lane highways where only a double yellow line separates a motorist traveling in one direction from oncoming traffic. Most jurisdictions prohibit motorists from passing others unless there’s a break in at least one of the double lines because roadway design makes it challenging to note and react to avoid oncoming traffic in ample time.
  • Passing on the shoulder: There are all different types of shoulders, including wide paved or soft gravel ones and narrow ones that give way to a steep drop off. Most jurisdictions make passing another vehicle on the shoulder of the road illegal because it’s just too risky to do so.

How To Avoid Making Unsafe Lane Changes 

The best way to avoid making unsafe lane changes is to regularly scan the roadway so that you’re aware of your surroundings and always use your mirrors. 

If you are ever in doubt about whether or not it is safe to change lanes, the best thing to do is to slow down and wait until it appears clear. It is better to arrive a few minutes late than to get into an accident. And, if you see another driver making an unsafe lane change, be sure to honk your horn or flash your lights to let them know so they can correct their mistake.

Some additional steps to follow to avoid making unsafe lane changes include:

  • Use your turn signal
  • Check your blind spots
  • Yield to oncoming traffic

Remember, more individuals tend to be followers instead of leaders. You can set a good example for other motorists if you don’t cut off other drivers yourself. Leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you when merging in front or passing them.

What To Do if You’re Involved in an Accident Caused by an Unsafe Lane Change

If you are ever involved in an accident caused by another driver making an unsafe lane change, you should do a few things, including:

  • Calm down and assess whether you or your vehicle’s occupants are injured. Summon paramedics to the crash scene if so. 
  • Call 911 to have a police officer come to the scene to facilitate the exchange of insurance information and prepare an accident report.
  • Take pictures of the damage to both vehicles, the crash scene, and any visible injuries you may have as you wait for law enforcement or paramedics to arrive (if you can).

You will definitely want to have a doctor check you out to ensure that you don’t have any internal injuries, even if you feel fine.

When To Involve an Attorney in Your Unsafe Lane Change Accident

Unsafe lane changes are a serious problem on the roads today. Being aware of them and taking precautions to avoid them can help you avoid becoming involved in a crash. 

Unfortunately, you can’t control the actions other motorists take. Countless motorists get hurt or lose their lives when other drivers fail to operate their vehicles safely.  

You may also want to report your accident to your auto insurance company in addition to taking the steps listed above following an injury crash. However, you may want to first speak with a lawyer before doing so to ensure that you’re fully apprised of the rights Pennsylvania law affords you if you’ve suffered injuries in an automobile accident. 

Our Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco attorneys are eager to learn more about your accident and advise you of your options for recovering compensation in your auto collision case. An email or phone call is all it takes to initiate communication with an attorney in our office. 

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