Many drivers are unable to anticipate sideswipe vehicle collisions, making them difficult to avoid. Sideswipe collisions typically occur as one vehicle drifts slightly out of its own lane. The shift crowds an adjacent lane with traffic traveling in the same or opposite direction. Often, the other driver may not have time to react before the accident occurs. Although sometimes unavoidable, several risk factors can increase the likelihood of a sideswipe collision. Avoiding the following four risk factors can help keep you and your passengers safe on the roadways.
1. Commercial Trucks, Especially Those Carrying Wide LoadsTruck drivers receive special training to learn how to safely maneuver large cargo vehicles. Despite driver training, large trucks inherently take up more space, even if they remain in the designated lane. Commercial trucks transporting wide loads may need even more room to maneuver safely. When sharing the roadway with commercial trucks, pay extra attention to drivers’ behaviors. If you notice a truck driver drifting toward your lane, try to provide more space for the truck to maneuver safely. If you can, shift your vehicle into an adjacent lane. If another lane is unavailable, at least shift your vehicle to the far side of your lane. If you notice a truck in an oncoming lane of traffic drifting toward your lane, change lanes, if possible. Providing the truck driver as much space as possible to safely maneuver will reduce the risk of an accident.
2. Distracted DriversIn the span of just five seconds, at 55 miles per hour, vehicles travel the length of a football field. On average, it takes about five seconds to read and respond to a text message. It follows that even the slightest distraction can cause devastating consequences. Distracted drivers may easily drift out of their designated lane and into another driver’s vehicle, causing a sideswipe collision. To help minimize the possibility of a sideswipe collision, reduce your own distractions behind the wheel. Avoid eating or drinking in the car, especially messy foods or drinks that could take your attention from the road. Avoid checking your phone for any reason while driving. Also, pay particular attention to other drivers that you suspect may be distracted. Change lanes or reduce your rate of speed to increase space for safe maneuvering.
3. Changing Lanes Without Looking SufficientlyTo change lanes safely, drivers must carefully identify sufficient space and signal before moving over. Unfortunately, almost all vehicles have blind spots that can make it difficult for drivers to see other vehicles beside them. Commercial trucks have particularly large blind spots, affecting driver visibility in the front, rear, and along both sides of the vehicle. You can take several steps to decrease your risk of a sideswipe collision resulting from improper lane changes.
- Always look carefully before you change lanes. Vehicles with large blind spots require drivers to take extra precautions. You may need to pay attention to traffic patterns long before you begin to shift into another lane. Before shifting your vehicle, ensure the blind spots are clear and that there is adequate room to accommodate your vehicle.
- Signal clearly before changing lanes. In many cases, a clear signal can provide the warning other drivers need to prevent a sideswipe collision. Signal clearly for an appropriate amount of time before you begin to move your vehicle into an adjacent lane. When you begin to change lanes, move slowly to ensure ample time to react, should another vehicle appear unexpectedly.
- Pay attention to other drivers around you. When a vehicle’s blinker indicates an intent to move into your lane, increase or reduce your speed to create adequate space. If a driver prematurely drifts toward your lane, tap your horn or take evasive action to keep yourself safe. Pay particular attention to truck drivers attempting to shift lanes. Because commercial trucks have larger blind spots, there is also a greater likelihood the driver does not see your vehicle.
- Stay out of big trucks’ blind spots. Take the time to become familiar with areas that may be a potential blind spot for a commercial truck driver. One rule of thumb is to check the driver’s mirrors. If you can see the driver, it is likely the driver can see you. On the other hand, if you cannot see the driver he or she is likely unaware of your vehicle. Try to avoid traveling in a commercial truck’s blind spots for any longer than necessary. Instead, increase or decrease your rate of speed to ensure the truck driver can see your vehicle clearly. If you do get stuck in a truck’s blind spot, pay careful attention to any indication that the driver plans to move over. If the truck begins to shift into your lane, get out of the way or make your vehicle visible.
4. Avoiding Objects in the RoadOften, roadway hazards cause drivers to react quickly, swerving to avoid any obstacles. Unfortunately, swerving to avoid a hazard in the road can quickly lead to a sideswipe collision. It is hard to predict how other drivers will react to hazards, especially if you are unaware of the hazard yourself. You can, however:
- Travel at a safe rate of speed. Speed increases the risk of sideswipe collisions and other accidents. The higher your rate of speed, the faster you must react to obstacles and other drivers.
- Pay attention to objects in the road. Keep your eyes on the road and carefully evaluate any potential obstacles. You should pay as much attention to objects in other lanes as you do to objects in yours. Look for adequate space to safely maneuver around an obstacle, rather than simply reacting instinctively. If you notice an obstacle that may impact other drivers, safely reduce your speed. Leave plenty of room for other drivers to maneuver around the obstacle, especially when traffic is heavy.