cars merging onto highway with text overlay "lane change accidents: who is at fault?"

If you were involved in a lane-change accident, you might not be sure who was at fault. Changing lanes and merging involves many quick decisions, and it can be difficult to remember if you took all the necessary precautions. Here, we’ll discuss how these auto accidents happen and what you can do to protect yourself while on the road.

Lane Change Accident Statistics

Lane change accidents account for almost 17% of all accidents on Arizona roads. These types of crashes, also known as sideswipe or merge accidents, cause thousands of injuries each year. In 2020, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that regardless of gender, nearly 8 in 10 (79%) admit they participate in aggressive driving behaviors (including blocking people from switching lanes, gesturing, following too closely etc). 11.9% also have purposely cut another car off. These dangerous behaviors contribute to Arizona’s many lane change accidents every year.

Who Has the Right-of-Way When Changing Lanes?

How can you tell if you have the right-of-way when changing lanes? There are two primary situations you should be aware of when driving in Arizona:

  • Changing lanes – A driver driving straight ahead in a lane has the right-of-way. The driver changing lanes has a responsibility to make sure it is safe. In most instances, a driver who hits another vehicle will be responsible for the crash. However, if the other driver does something to prevent the lane change, such as speeding up or slowing down, they might be liable for the crash.
  • Merging traffic – When traffic lanes merge or when a driver turns into a lane from another road, the driver driving straight ahead in the lane has the right-of-way. Again, it is the responsibility of the merging driver to check first before merging. However, when a driver sees another vehicle attempting to merge, they should either move over or slow down. If they fail to do so, they could also be liable for the crash.

What to Do Before Changing Lanes

Some lane change accidents are caused because drivers don’t know how to change lanes safely. Like most vehicle collisions, lane change accidents could be prevented if drivers are alert and exercise adequate caution.

In order to avoid an auto accident while changing lanes, it’s important to:

  • Use your turn signal to indicate that you intend to change lanes
  • Check your rearview mirrors and blind spots
  • Maintain your current speed while changing lanes
  • Only change one lane at a time
  • Avoid changing lanes marked by solid lines
  • Avoid changing lanes at an intersection

Determining if it is safe to change lanes requires you to estimate the speed of vehicles both ahead and behind you. In hazardous weather conditions, such as rain or ice, you should allow a greater distance between vehicles before changing lanes. If you are ever uncertain about whether or not it is safe to merge, you should wait until there is a safer opportunity.

Talk to Our Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys in Phoenix, AZ Today

If you were injured in an Arizona lane change accident, contact a knowledgeable Phoenix car accident attorney at Silkman Law Firm Injury & Accident Lawyer. Our legal team can provide the support and guidance you need during this challenging time. Call us or reach out to us online for your free consultation today.

Note: This article was previously published in Feb 2022 and updated for relevance in Oct 2022.

Author: Alex Silkman

Alex Silkman is the founder and managing member of Silkman Law Firm Injury & Accident Lawyer. He focuses exclusively on personal injury and wrongful death cases, with the goal of getting truly just results for accident victims and their families.