St. Louis Improper Lane Change Accidents
Most of the roads in St. Louis are for public use. As such, drivers are expected to follow traffic rules, remain in their lanes, and only change when it’s safe. However, that’s not always what happens. From time to time, road accidents caused by improper lane changes are reported in and around St. Louis.
On August 12, one person died in a crash on I-170 in North St. Louis County. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that the accident involved a 2019 Toyota Camry traveling too fast before sideswiping a 2010 Audi A4 that was changing lanes. As a result, northbound lanes on the Interstate were closed for the better part of the evening. Paramedics pronounced the driver of the Camry dead at the scene.
Due to improper lane changes, top accident locations include Highway 100 and Taylor Road, Highway 109 Street and Shepard Road, and Highway 109 Street and Pond Grover Loop. The severity of these accidents can vary. Some victims escape with minor wounds, while others suffer catastrophic injuries or even death.
If you experienced serious harm after an auto accident caused by an improper lane change, you have legal rights and may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries and other damages. Contact NST Law today for a free case evaluation to determine the validity and worth of your claim.
Who's at fault in a lane change accident?
When changing lanes, the most appropriate thing to do is wait until you have a clear gap in the traffic to make a safe transition. Even when you find an opening, you must continue to be aware of your surroundings as you move swiftly yet cautiously into the center of your desired lane. However, sometimes drivers change lanes abruptly or carelessly without looking or signaling, causing accidents in the process.
For every accident that involves lane changes, someone will likely be at fault. Also known as negligence, the at-fault driver is often guilty of failing to observe the traffic rules, thereby causing harm to either themselves or other drivers on the road.
The revised Missouri Statute 304.015 states that when a driver is operating their vehicle on a highway with a total of two or more lanes, the driver must maintain the right-hand lane. The driver can only overtake if it’s safe to do so by observing all relevant traffic laws.
If a driver merges into a lane without observing the requisite traffic laws and an accident results, that driver is likely at fault for the collision. Every driver has a duty to obey traffic laws and make the right decisions and safe calls when driving.
Is it legal to split lanes in St. Louis?
No, lane splitting is not legal in St. Louis. Lane splitting refers to the practice of riding motorcycles through tight lanes of slow-moving traffic. Even though it is done primarily on freeways, lane splitting may also happen on any multi-lane roadway.
If someone engaging in lane-splitting behavior causes an accident, law enforcement can issue them a citation, and they may be liable for your injuries and other resulting damages.
What's a proper lane change?
In St. Louis, drivers must do the following when changing lanes:
- Turn on your signal to indicate that you’re about to change lanes.
- Check your mirrors.
- Ensure there’s no blind spot by looking over your shoulder.
- After ascertaining that it’s safe to change lanes, do so carefully while watching out for other drivers.
- After completing the lane change, turn off your signal.
If a driver cuts me off when changing lanes and I hit him, am I at fault?
Traffic rules in St. Louis dictate that you should always keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. If any unanticipated problems arise, this gives you time to stop before hitting the driver directly ahead of you. However, a car accident lawyer can help assess the facts and specific circumstances of the accident. If successful, you can sometimes shift fault onto the driver of the vehicle you hit if they were improperly changing lanes in front of you when the accident happened.
Variables that authorities often consider include:
- Whether or not the other driver signaled a lane change correctly
- If the other driver was observing the traffic rules for lane changing
- Whether the driver gave enough time for other drivers to react (i.e., if they left enough room between themselves and other vehicles as they shifted lanes)
What causes lane change accidents in St. Louis?
Rear-end collisions, rollovers, and other forms of crashes are common in St. Louis and Missouri because of the following factors involving improper or abrupt lane changes:
- Failure by drivers to use a signal before changing lanes
- Ignoring or not checking blind spots before changing or merging lanes
- Drunk driving, fatigue, or drowsiness
- Drivers losing focus by engaging in distracting activities such as using their phones when driving
- Road debris or fallen cargo
- Trying to evade an accident that has already occurred
- Medical issues such as sudden heart attacks, seizures, and strokes
Everyday Situations Where Drivers Make Unexpected Lane Changes in St. Louis
When driving, you must focus on your vehicle as well as other motorists around you. Even though you might be obeying the set traffic rules, other drivers might be disregarding them for one reason or another. These broken traffic rules might lead to unexpected lane changes and subsequent accidents.
The following situations might lead negligent drivers to change lanes suddenly:
Being Stuck in Traffic
Nobody likes slow-moving traffic. It can be frustrating starting or ending your day at a standstill, especially when vehicles in other lanes seem to be moving quicker. When this happens, it might be tempting for drivers to change lanes causing accidents in the process.
An Aggressive Episode
Aggression while driving can lead to road rage, a major cause of collisions. When enraged, drivers may choose to switch lanes without heeding traffic rules, thereby causing accidents in the process.
Avoiding obstacles on the roadways is often a valid reason for an “unsafe lane change.” It’s advisable for motorists to choose a lesser danger in front of them, even if it means switching lanes abruptly. For example, if debris from a truck falls onto the road in another driver’s path or if a vehicle traveling in front of another driver suddenly stops, the affected driver might have to change lanes to avoid an accident.
The best course of action is choosing the safest way to escape the line of danger without causing a new hazard. However, this isn’t always possible, and sometimes automatic reactions (i.e., fight or flight responses) result in new dangers such as swerving into the car next to you.
Nearly Missing a Freeway Exit
Whether you’re just distracted or unsure about your destination, it’s possible to realize too late that you’re about to miss your exit off a highway or interstate. In such cases, most drivers opt to change lanes abruptly to avoid having to turn around. Unfortunately, by doing so, they’re likely to cause collisions with vehicles traveling near the exit or also attempting to exit.
A Late Decision to Turn
These accidents often occur when missing a freeway exit, as stated above, or when a driver notices they’re about to miss their turn, putting them on the wrong route to their destination. A late decision to turn can happen due to a lack of focus, confusion, or distraction. In this situation, the best thing to do is to accept that you missed the turn and find a safe location to turn around. It’s only going to cost you a minute or two to get back to your desired route.
When a Blind Spot is Occupied
It’s common for drivers to ignore checking their blind spots in St. Louis and roadways throughout Missouri. Failing to check your blind spots can result in collisions with other vehicles, especially as you attempt to change lanes. In many cases, not checking your blind spots is likely to lead to accidents because you won’t have enough time to correct your error after realizing the other vehicle is in your desired path. At that point, you usually only recognize their presence after they alert you by honking their horn or you’ve crashed into them.
Additionally, if the other driver slams on their brakes to avoid colliding with a driver who failed to check their blind spots, it can cause accidents with other vehicles on the road who now have to avoid hitting the car that slammed on its brakes or swerved out of the way. In short, not checking your blind spots or traveling near someone who fails to check theirs can have wide-reaching and devastating impacts.
Should I contact a personal injury lawyer at NST Law after a lane change accident in St. Louis?
Nobody wishes to be involved in an auto accident. Still, the reality is they’re actually quite common, so it’s best to prepare yourself for the likelihood of this unfortunate situation. Even the best drivers can be involved in road accidents, more specifically, unsafe lane change accidents.
If an accident happens, you need to remind yourself to do the following:
- Remain calm.
- Get to safety.
- Call 911.
- Seek medical evaluation and treatment (even if you don’t think you’re injured).
- Gather evidence at the scene, if you can.
- Collect contact information from witnesses and the other party or parties involved.
- Contact your insurance company to report the accident.
- Speak with a St. Louis personal injury lawyer to assess your damages and a claim for compensation.
Contact our St. Louis office at NST Law today for a free case evaluation to determine the validity and worth of your claim and decide the next steps.