Dangerous Lane Changes Cause Tractor-Trailer to Roll

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Truck3.jpgLate last month, a major accident occurred in Gwinnett County during the morning commute. As it happens, I was traveling nearby at the time and ended up behind the back-up and closures that resulted from this crash. This crash involved a tractor-trailer, but that vehicle did not cause the crash. What did cause the crash was the alleged reckless driver at the wheel of a minivan. The accident resulted in the death of one person and the serious injuries of another. What is most tragic is that as is the case with many motor vehicle crashes, the loss of life apparently could have been avoided.

We are all witness to those on our roads who endanger us all by driving recklessly. And in general tractor-trailers have a weight advantage over other smaller vehicles in an impact. But in this crash, the reports reveal that a minivan driver’s actions may have caused the crash. The Atlanta Journal Constitution indicates that a minivan entered I-85 and began to drive in a hazardous manner moving across traffic lanes resulting a tractor trailer being cut off. The minivan hit the truck by clipping it on the front end, causing both vehicles to lose control. This series of events ended with the tractor and the trailer being separated and rolling over which resulted in the death of one occupant in the truck. The other individual in the truck was hospitalized. Authorities are unsure who was driving the tractor trailer. But what is apparently quite evident is that the driver of the minivan was at fault for the collision and the sequence of events that followed. She was not injured seriously.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has studied the behaviors of drivers making lane changes and how unsafe lane changes can cause accidents. Over a period of about a year, a study followed drivers and vehicles in the Washington D.C. area. This study included observations of the vehicular and the driver’s behavior. This study included very specific research into how drivers make lane changes and what happens just before they do, including their eye movements. The use of turn signals and the duration of the lane change were also studied. As a result of this study, the researchers were able to gather what they termed “event scenarios.” These were then categorized into three type of crashes that resulted from lane changes. One was the vehicle hitting or nearly hitting another vehicle, the second was a vehicle that was forced to swerve into a lane to avoid a threat in front of that vehicle and the third was an adjacent vehicle sideswiping other vehicles while making a lane change.

What the resulting statistics revealed was that most lane changes that resulted in crashes happened when the vehicles were driving at moderately high speeds of close to 40 miles per hour. The behavior of drivers was noted to be a failure of drivers to check their left mirrors, left windows and center mirrors prior to a lane change. An even greater percentage of drivers did not check their right hand mirrors, right windows or center mirrors. Overall, dangerous lane changes resulting in crashes were cause by failure of drivers to adequately scan the traffic conditions prior to making a lane change and failure to notify other vehicles of the intention to make that lane change.

These findings are most likely expected and are not surprising to readers. If drivers are reckless and do not look to see the potential consequences to surrounding vehicles in making a lane change or do not notify other drivers of their intention to make such a lane change, it raises the likelihood that there will be a collision of some sort as a result.

We have laws in Georgia that prohibit dangerous driving and unsafe lane change maneuvers, and require drivers to notify others on the road that they are about to make a lane change (See Official Code of Georgia Annotated, section 40-6-123). As our technology develops hopefully our vehicles will let us know when someone on the road is going to potentially cause injury or death, but until that happens we all need to drive as defensively as possible and if someone is driving recklessly around your vehicle the only thing you can do is to try to stay out of that driver’s way and contact authorities so you are able to get the person off the road.

If you have been injured due to a driver who has made an unsafe lane change or is driving aggressively, you can hold that person responsible for your injuries. Please feel free to contact me, Charles Scholle, at Scholle Law for a free consultation after an accident or injury. I will personally evaluate your situation and let you know whether it appears another vehicle is responsible for your injuries.

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