An improper lane change happens when a driver switches lanes in a reckless or careless manner that puts other motorists at risk of crashing. Drivers who cause an auto accident by failing to check their blind spots, driving aggressively, swerving across multiple lanes at once and other unsafe acts may be found negligent.
When someone is harmed by a driver’s reckless actions, the law generally allows the injured victim to seek compensation for their injuries and losses. If you were hurt in a car accident due to an improper lane change, our personal injury lawyers at Gary Martin Hays & Associates can help.
The Georgia Code’s Definition of Turning and Signaling
According to Georgia Code § 40-6-123 (2020), you must “signal your intention to turn right or left or change lanes” with enough time given to alert drivers behind you or coming from the opposite direction. Turn signals are to be used to show intent to turn, change lanes, or exit a parking space.
Drivers should not suddenly slow down or stop without first signaling their intent to turn. Turn signals cannot be used to indicate a parked or disabled vehicle (use your flashers instead), or to signal vehicles approaching from behind to pass.
Even when using a turn signal, drivers should not turn at an intersection, or onto a road, highway, or driveway unless it is safe to do so.
A police officer may pull a person over or write them a ticket after a crash for unsafe lane changes. An improper lane change includes dangerous maneuvers that endanger other drivers or pedestrians, passing too close to a slower vehicle, forcing a car off the road, tailgating/following too closely during a lane change, and weaving through traffic.
Failure to signal carries certain penalties if a driver receives a citation:
- 3 points on your driver’s license
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Receiving a misdemeanor on your criminal record
How Often Do Drivers Use Their Turn Signals?
Drive on any road and it is obvious more than a few drivers fail to use their turn signals. This failure in communication can be frustrating for other drivers.
According to a report by the Society of Automotive Engineers, nearly half of observed drivers failed to indicate their desire to change lanes. One in four drivers failed to use a signal when turning. Most 18 to 24-year-olds (71%) admitted that they don’t use turn signals.
And the reasons given were both disappointing and predictable. Around 42% of non-signalers said they didn’t have time, while 23% admitted they were just too lazy to bother.
Drivers have an ongoing duty to use their signals. Failing to signal, along with improper lane changes and turns, contribute to a large portion of car and motorcycle accidents.
In addition to always using a turn signal (even when you think you’re alone), some good driving habits include:
- Turn on your signal at least 100 feet (about 6 to 7 car lengths) before you turn left or right.
- Turn on your signal at least five seconds before changing lanes.
- If there are multiple roads or driveways ahead, use your best judgment on when to activate a turn signal so as not to confuse other drivers ahead who wish to enter the roadway.
- Check your blindspots. Just because you have your turn signal on doesn’t mean you automatically get to change lanes.
How Improper Lane Changing Causes Accidents
Failure to keep in the proper lane (4th); operating a vehicle in a careless manner (5th); and operating a vehicle in an erratic, reckless, or negligent manner (8th) were among the top factors found to contribute to fatal crashes. (NHTSA)
Drivers who fail to use turn signals set themselves up for a potentially dangerous scenario that could injure themselves or others. Failure to signal can also result in fines, increased insurance premiums, road rage, and property damage.
Using a turn signal does not absolve someone if they are passing another vehicle when they shouldn’t. Changing lanes may be deemed improper when a driver passes a stopped school bus, moves through a construction zone (unless directed by signage), or passes a vehicle in a no-passing zone.
When a Lane Change Causes an Accident
If a person changing lanes caused an accident, you must prove that their negligence led to the crash.
For example, the driver could have been using their phone while switching lanes, or swerved in front of your vehicle without using a turn signal. If the driver appears impaired or intoxicated, police can perform a breathalyzer or field sobriety test.
Evidence of an improper lane change and fault for the accident may include a police crash report, witness statements, and dashcam or surveillance footage.
Sometimes a collision involving an improper lane change may be limited to one person’s story versus another. The officer may not know who to believe. In circumstances like this, be careful what you say.
Stick to the facts of what happened, seek medical treatment, then talk to an experienced car accident attorney. They can investigate the incident and build a solid claim on your behalf.
Injured? Talk to a Georgia Personal Injury Lawyer
After a crash, see a doctor as soon as possible. Not only does this protect your health, it can potentially prevent a dispute with the insurance company when filing a claim for compensation.
Having helped thousands of car accident victims over the years, we can confidently say that the insurance company is not your friend. They may try to blame the accident on you to avoid paying you the full amount you deserve.
Don’t admit fault or agree to give a recorded statement or sign any documents until after you’ve spoken with one of our knowledgeable Atlanta car accident lawyers. We understand the insurance company's tactics and how crashes drastically impact victims’ well-being and livelihoods.
To get started on a claim for full and fair compensation for a wreck that wasn’t your fault, contact us today for a free consultation.