Reckless lane changes cause a lot of crashes on our roads. While the danger is usually greater when a heavier commercial vehicle is part of the mix, the reality is that abrupt lane changes by any vehicle can be responsible for injuries and fatalities. Changing lanes unsafely, whether due to weaving and other aggressive acts or drifting caused by distraction, involves vehicles of all types and sizes. Two recent local examples in the Baltimore-Washington area were:
- According to Maryland State Police, on March 24, 2018, an Inner Beltway crash killed a man. Improper lane changing and failing to yield the right of way were the charges.
- Also in March, 2018, an unsafe lane change by a tractor-trailer caused an 18-vehicle collision that resulted in injuries to four people, two with life-threatening injuries. All four southbound lanes were shut down during rush hour for more than two hours. The large white semi that caused the crash sped away unharmed.
Unsafe lane changes cause a lot of crashes on our roads. Not staying in the proper lane causes about 11 percent of all passenger motor vehicle crashes. But when a tractor-trailer is packing more than 80,000 pounds, the chances of serious injuries and fatalities are greater.
A large truck study run by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that 32 percent of large trucks either ran into another lane or went off the road, causing accidents. The bottom line is that approximately 10,000 crashes occur because of dangerous lane-changing behaviors by large truck drivers.
The Reasons for Unsafe Lane Changes
All drivers are expected to drive safely, but commercial drivers with the heavy rigs are called upon to be extra vigilant. All persons behind the wheel who are erratic, distracted, or aggressive can change lanes at risky moments. For truckers, sometimes it arises from the stress of deadlines, or from not checking their substantial blind spots. Except for the pressure to deliver a load on time, the reasons for unsafe lane changing are much the same for those driving passenger vehicles and large trucks:
- Changing lanes without checking mirrors or blind spot areas
- Changing lanes at high speeds for any reason, but especially when approaching an exit or a road split
- Using an intersection to change lanes
- Changing lanes while refusing to yield, known as “cutting off” another vehicle
- Changing lanes without using turn signals to alert others
- Weaving and similar aggressive driving behaviors
- Driving while distracted by eating, drinking, and interacting with phones or onboard systems
- Driving while fatigued or intoxicated, which limits the driver’s attention
- Underestimating distances and space when attempting to change lanes. Those driving large trucks may be more vulnerable to such a misjudgment.
Can Technology Help?
Many newer passenger vehicles offer active lane-keeping assist, active lane-departure assist, or both, either as standard or optional equipment. Active lane-keeping assist automatically corrects steering to keep the vehicle from moving out of its traffic lane; active lane-departure assist provides warnings to alert the driver when they are crossing lane markings.
For truckers, technologies known as “active steering” and “automated steering” are expected to be available by 2020 for commercial vehicles. These technologies have both lane-centering and lane-keeping features. Fleets will be responsible for paying extra for the technologies, but it is expected that unsafe lane changes will be limited by their use, saving lives and limiting monetary damages.
Everyone driving on our roads is expected to refrain from unsafe and illegal driving behaviors, but none more so than truckers. If a vehicular crash is caused by a commercial driver who drove more hours than regulations permit, or engaged in other risky behavior, negligence could be found, making the driver, trucking company, or even others legally liable. Seeking the advice of a knowledgeable, compassionate attorney after a serious crash could be your best move.
Steve Heisler, The Injury Lawyer, Can Help You.
If you have been involved in a collision with a truck or other vehicle, you may be concerned about how you’re going to make ends meet. You may be confused about how to go about seeking compensation from the negligent driver. Steve Heisler has been helping injured people in Maryland for more than two decades with all types of vehicular accidents. Steve’s thorough investigation will uncover all potential defendants in your case, demanding just compensation for your medical expenses, rehabilitation, loss of income, and pain and suffering. If you lost a loved one because of a big rig driver’s negligence, Steve can help your family recover through a wrongful death lawsuit.
You’d better believe a trucking company and its insurer will have a team of lawyers to protect their interests. Call the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation to protect your interests. If you prefer, use our online contact form.