Merging accidents can have some of the worst consequences for motorists. Without properly yielding to oncoming traffic or appropriately checking blind spots, motorists merging onto busy highways or reentering traffic can cause enormous mayhem to themselves and other motorists. Drivers should understand merging basics and know their rights if involved in a merging accident. At Graves McLain, our Tulsa car accident lawyers have experience handling merge accident claims.
Merging accidents occur when one vehicle attempts to enter the lane of another vehicle and fails to properly yield to oncoming traffic. This can occur when a vehicle is changing lanes while driving down a road, merging onto a highway from a ramp, or reentering traffic after stopping at a curb or on the shoulder of a highway.
Compared to other vehicle accidents, merging lanes is not the most dangerous or prevalent form of accident. Nonetheless, merging or lane changing accidents cause significant problems for motorists.
According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), merging or lane changing accidents have caused the following issues in the U.S. for 2019:
Merging accidents can be caused by numerous issues. However, below are some of the primary culprits for merging-related accidents.
Failing to yield occurs when a motorist does not allow oncoming traffic to pass before entering a new lane. In most cases, a vehicle attempting to change lanes or merge onto a new highway must yield to oncoming traffic. Failure to yield can result in an accident and incur liability on the driver that had a duty to yield but failed to do so.
Generally, vehicles should drive slightly above their current speed when changing lanes or merging onto a highway to account for drag caused by the movement of the vehicle. Otherwise, merging vehicles must yield to oncoming traffic, which may require the vehicle to slow down before shifting lanes. When merging, vehicles should be mindful of their speed in correlation with other vehicles on the road.
In today’s day and age, motorists have a litany of distractions to contend with when driving. Between cellular phones, sophisticated dashboard displays, food, beverages, and noisy passengers, motorists are constantly being distracted. Thus, if another motorist is improperly using turn signals or failing to yield, a distracted driver could easily miss another driver’s negligence and incur a percentage of the fault for an accident.
Motorists consistently fail to use turn signals when merging onto another lane of traffic. Turn signals are designed to notify other motorists that a car is about to change lanes. Without properly using a turn signal, a motorist can be at fault for causing an accident.
When a motorist cuts across more than one lane of traffic, they are usually violating other safety tips on this list, including failing to yield, failing to use turn signals, and speeding. If a motorist needs to enter a lane of traffic that is two or more lanes over from their current lane, that motorist should patiently enter and exit each lane by yielding to oncoming traffic, using their turn signal, and adjusting their speed accordingly.
Road rage is another reason for many awful traffic accidents, including merging-related collisions. Once a motorist starts using their vehicle to spite other drivers, all sorts of issues can arise. Commonly, a motorist experiencing road rage will violate numerous safety laws and engage in a combination of the actions above, including cutting across one or more lanes of traffic, drastically changing their vehicle speed, consistently failing to use turn signals, and be distracted until causing an accident.
Although a merging collision can cause all sorts of accidents, our merging accident attorneys have found that the below circumstances are some of the most common:
Once the truck driver realizes the merging vehicle is failing to yield, the driver may attempt to brake or change lanes.
Because of their weight and size, the truck may not be able to effectively use the brakes or change lanes in time, which causes the truck to rear-end or side-swipe the merging vehicle.
Instances of merging accidents demonstrate the severity these occurrences can have on motorists in Oklahoma. For example, in 2019, an 18 y/o driver attempted to merge onto the Muskogee Turnpike by driving in front of a semi-truck barreling down the interstate. Shocking dashcam footage from the driver’s vehicle shows her speeding up to beat the semi. When she merged in front of the truck, both vehicles made contact causing the driver to spin out of control and hit the central barrier.
The issue in this instance was the 18 y/o’s failure to yield when merging onto the interstate. When reached for comment, the semi-truck driver said that this type of situation happens quite often. When it posted the clips of the dashcam footage on Facebook, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) had received over 1.5 million views of the accident.
Motorists that find themselves dealing with a merging or lane change accident should follow these steps to ensure their claim is handled correctly.
When an accident occurs, motorists should always contact emergency services to address any medical needs resulting from the accident. Even if a motorist or their passenger does not exhibit symptoms of injury immediately, medical issues like whiplash, stiffness, or pain can occur later.
Motorists should always make a police report after an accident. Minor fender-benders likely do not require reports, but any noticeable or internal property damage to a vehicle or injuries should prompt the calling of an officer to make a report.
Having a report is evidence that an accident occurred for a motorist’s insurance company.
Motorists should always take pictures of any property damage or significant injuries. Collecting this type of evidence provides an insurance company with a clear picture of the damage caused by an accident.
Motorists should try to exchange insurance information after an accident. This allows both motorists to file claims with their insurance companies and commences the claims process. When conversing with the other driver, a motorist should not admit fault or excessively blame the other driver for negligence. Oklahoma is a modified comparative fault, which means triers of fact may divide fault based on the circumstances of the accident by percentage. Drivers may be in the right, but providing too much information before understanding the facts may decrease the number of damages awarded to a driver.
Drivers should contact their insurance company immediately after an accident and provide evidence like a police report and photos. Drivers should not provide robust narratives of the accident and instead, let the insurance company decide based on the facts.
Under no circumstances should a motorist speak with the other driver’s insurance company.
Insurance companies will employ numerous deceptive tactics to coax a driver into admitting fault or hindering any claim for damages.
Drivers can contact an attorney at any time throughout the claims process. Typically, policyholders tend to experience issues in a claim once the claim has been denied. Because insurance companies offer an appeals process for claims, policyholders should consider contacting an attorney. An attorney will also help a policyholder investigate the facts of their claim and craft a legal strategy to collect damages or defend against unwarranted accusations of fault.
For a free consultation regarding merging or lane-changing accidents, our attorneys at Graves McClain are here to assist. Please contact us by visiting our website or call us at 919-359-6600.
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