Switching lanes is an important part of driving. However, it’s also one of the leading causes of car accidents in Canada, often leading to devastating results.
In 2022, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) responded to 9,110 collisions involving transport trucks. It’s the highest number of transport truck-related crashes on OPP-patrolled roads in over a decade.
According to the OPP, the primary factors leading to these collisions were speeding, following too closely, and improper lane changes. Safely changing lanes is important, particularly when driving large commercial vehicles or on multi-lane highways.
Most drivers don’t change lanes to cause an accident, but certain situations may lead to unsafe lane changes. Weaving in and out of lanes in multi-lane highways increases the probability of motor vehicle collisions. Sharing the road safely with other motorists is crucial for everyone’s safety.
One way to do that is by adhering to proper lane-changing techniques. This article offers tips to avoid unsafe lane changes on multi-lane highways. We also examine what’s considered hazardous lane changes under the law and the potential consequences of making them.
Lane changing is when a driver moves a motor vehicle from one lane to another on roads with two or more lanes going in the same direction. Motorists may switch lanes for a few reasons, generally categorized as discretionary and mandatory lane changes.
A discretionary lane change is when a driver moves their vehicle to a lane that they believe has better traffic conditions. Typical examples include overtaking a car or avoiding a parked vehicle or obstruction. A mandatory lane change, on the other hand, is when a driver moves over to an exit lane or gives the right-of-way- to a vehicle.
Lane changing is common on multi-lane highways or local streets. However, unsafe lane changes on multi-lane roads may increase the risk of collisions and jeopardize the safety of all road users.
Considering the dangers of multi-lane highways, safe lane changes are critical. Proper lane changes help maintain traffic flow, enabling drivers to transition between lanes without causing sudden stops or slowdowns.
Safe lane changes also enhance the predictability of driver behaviour by signalling the driver’s intentions. This allows other road users to anticipate their movements, eventually minimizing the risk of collisions.
When a vehicle suddenly or improperly switches lanes, other drivers can be forced to respond in dangerous ways. Here are some of the potential consequences when motorists fail to execute safe lane changes:
Unsafe lane changes can happen in various ways. It can be as simple as switching lanes without giving proper signals or failing to check the side before moving to the next lane.
Changing lanes in an unsafe manner may surprise other road users and force them to swerve or brake suddenly to prevent a collision. These unexpected maneuvers can result in various types of accidents.
There’s limited available information about unsafe lane-change-related crashes. Generally, however, unsafe lane changes provide motorists nearby with little to no chance to avoid the following accidents:
Although switching lanes isn’t against the law, it becomes a ticketable offence when doing so is unsafe. Improper lane changes can have serious consequences, as they can cause collisions that can lead to severe injuries.
Each province or territory has its own laws concerning safe lane changes. Generally, however, the most immediate consequence of an unsafe lane change is a traffic ticket.
Even if you don’t cause an accident, you may still be issued a ticket for an unsafe lane change. If you don’t want to contest the ticket, you can settle the violation by paying the fine.
Fines for making an unsafe lane change may differ depending on the laws of the province or territory. In Ontario, for example, an unsafe lane change can result in a fine of $85 plus a victim fine surcharge of $25. British Columbia, on the other hand, imposes a fine of $109.
In addition to fines, drivers who receive tickets for improper lane changes can get demerit points on their driver’s licence. You automatically get demerit points if you’re convicted of a driving offence in any jurisdiction in Canada.
Typically, these demerit points vary from two points for minor traffic convictions to six points for more serious ones. Your driver’s license can be suspended once you accumulate the maximum demerit points allowed. These points are retained on your driving record for two or three years from the date of the incident.
A citation for an improper lane change is typically considered a minor offence. However, multiple offences on your driving record can increase insurance premiums. For example, in Ontario, you can face a 20 percent increase for two or more convictions on a minor driving ticket and another 20 percent for each additional conviction.
Likewise, accumulating demerit points doesn’t, on its own, raise your insurance premiums. However, when your points reach 9 to 14, you’re more likely to have your driver’s license suspended. This suspension can increase your insurance premiums, as it indicates a higher risk to insurance providers.
The person who caused the lane change accident is generally liable for the injuries and losses arising from the collision. While the rules to determine liability may vary across provinces, driver negligence is a common factor in fault determinations.
Negligence law in Canada is primarily based on the principles of common law. If you can establish that you were injured because of someone else’s negligence, that party will need to compensate you for your losses.
Every motorist owes a duty of care to other road users, and they have a legal obligation to safely operate their vehicles and adhere to traffic laws. However, drivers can breach this duty and cause an accident by violating traffic laws, such as making an unsafe lane change.
Most provinces in Canada operate under the no-fault auto insurance system, which means that, regardless of who was at fault, each motorist will resolve their claim with their insurance companies. Therefore, a person injured in a car accident doesn’t have to sue the at-fault driver for compensation.
This simplifies and accelerates the insurance claims process, which means that you can receive compensation faster. It’s worth noting, however, that fault is still determined under the no-fault insurance system, and you might share liability with the other driver for the resulting damages.
For instance, Section 7 of Ontario’s Negligence Act says that in cases where damages result from the fault or negligence of more than one party, the court can order the plaintiff to share some portion of the losses.
Traffic laws are established and enforced at the provincial and territorial levels, which means that the definition of an unsafe lane change may vary across provinces and territories. Below are examples of what constitutes unsafe lane changes in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.
The Highway Traffic Act (HTA) governs traffic rules in Ontario. Section 154 of the HTA says that a vehicle must not change lanes unless it’s safe to do so. Any behaviour that violates the HTA can be considered unsafe in Ontario.
The Traffic Safety Act (TSA) establishes the rules of the road in Alberta. Section 15(2) of the TSA says that a person driving a vehicle must signal their intention when making a lane change. They must also give the signal well ahead of time to indicate their intention to change lanes. Changing lanes in a way that violates the TSA can be regarded as unsafe in Alberta.
The Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) regulates traffic rules in British Columbia. Section 151 of the MVA says that a driver must not change lanes unless they’re sure that it can be done safely and without affecting another vehicle. Any lane change that violates the MVA may be deemed unsafe.
Unsafe lane changes can occur in several ways. Generally, however, the following behaviours may be regarded as unsafe maneuvers across Canada:
Making unsafe lane changes puts you and other road users at risk. Even if an unsafe lane change doesn’t result in an accident, you can still get a ticket and demerit points.
Due to increased traffic, driving on multi-lane highways may be more challenging than driving on one-way roads. Therefore, learning the proper way to switch or move over into lanes of traffic is very important. Consider these tips to avoid making unsafe lane changes and disrupting traffic flow:
Adhering to the directions of a police officer or traffic rules and signs is very important in making sure that you’re not making any unsafe lane changes. They are designed to prevent collisions and ensure everyone on the road is safe. Traffic rules may also change based on traffic conditions or when a road is closed, so it’s important to be alert when you’re driving.
For example, a traffic sign might say that a particular area is a no-passing zone. You can’t pass other vehicles or change lanes in these zones because of limited visibility or hazardous road conditions.
Additionally, traffic lights inform drivers and pedestrians what to do at intersections. If there’s a red light or stop sign at the intersection, you must come to a complete stop before passing through.
On the other hand, a green arrow indicates that you can proceed with your turn or lane change in the direction of the arrow if the intersection is clear. Remember that you should also stop before a marked crosswalk and always give the right-of-way to emergency vehicles.
Speed limits, stop signs, and traffic control devices are important for regulating vehicle speeds and controlling the flow of traffic. Therefore, regardless of the rush you’re in, follow traffic signals and rules when making a lane change or other maneuvers.
It’s also important to understand the flow of traffic before you change lanes. Doing so can help you determine where and when you should execute a lane change.
Remember that anticipating your lane change is essential to prevent cutting off other drivers. For instance, if you’re on the highway and you know that you must exit soon, avoid delaying moving to the right lane until the last minute.
Moreover, observing the flow of traffic in your current lane and the one you’re moving into is also vital. Are there any signs of congestion or slowdowns? Once you understand traffic patterns, choose the lane that has the most uninterrupted flow of traffic.
Changing lanes should not interrupt the flow of traffic. This means that you should maintain your speed as you merge into the new lane. After successfully moving into the new lane, you can adjust to slow down or accelerate, depending on the speed of the lane you move into.
It’s important to maintain the same speed when changing lanes to avoid an accident. For example, if you accelerate while changing lanes and the car in the other lane reduces its speed, it may result in a collision. Even if you can’t see any vehicles around you, it’s important that you do this.
Selecting the proper lane is more than randomly choosing a lane to drive in. It’s important to pick the lane where you have the most visibility and allows you to keep a safe distance from other vehicles. For example, you shouldn’t change lanes when you approach the crest of a hill, as you won’t be able to see whether there’s any oncoming traffic.
On slippery roads, it’s best to drive in the lane or on the section of the lane that provides the most traction. When you’re about to turn at an intersection, be in the lane that’s designated for the kind of turn you’re about to take. Moreover, pay attention to the designation signs for the right-turn and left-turn lanes.
Remember to remain in the proper lane, especially when you’re driving on multi-lane roads. Be on the left lane only when you’re passing another vehicle or are about to turn left. Alternatively, use the right lane for driving, when making a right turn, or preparing to enter or leave the roadway. Avoid overtaking another vehicle when you’re in the right lane.
Use proper signals before changing lanes. This way, you can alert other drivers and give them time to let you execute a safe lane change.
Signal as early as possible, especially if you’re switching lanes on the roundabout. Make sure to turn off your turn signal lights after switching lanes to avoid unnecessary confusion and accidents.
Every time you make a lane change, check your rearview mirrors first to see if there are any cars and if there is enough space behind you. As you activate your right or left turn signal, look at the side mirror on which you intend to merge. For instance, if you plan to change to the right lane, check your right-side mirror for any oncoming vehicles.
Note that the position of your mirrors also matters. It should allow you to survey the area around your vehicle and what’s happening on the side of the road without changing your position. When adjusted properly, the mirrors must not cover the blind spot. Otherwise, you risk switching lanes or crossing paths with a vehicle you can’t detect in your blind spot or mirrors.
It’s important to look at your surroundings before changing lanes. There are areas around your vehicle that you can’t see in your mirrors. Therefore, looking over your shoulder to see cars or objects that you can’t see in your mirrors is very important.
You should be particularly careful of bicyclists or cyclists. They are less visible and can quickly enter your blind spot.
A study by DIG Insights found that 58 percent of Ontario drivers engaged in risky driving behaviours. Of these, 43 percent admitted exceeding the speed limit, and 17 percent had operated a vehicle while distracted. Moreover, 18 percent reported making unsafe lane changes, and 6 percent had driven aggressively.
If another driver’s unsafe lane change leaves you with serious injuries or results in the death of a loved one, our team of Diamond & Diamond lawyers can offer you legal support and help you get the compensation you deserve.
We at Diamond & Diamond understand the physical, emotional, and financial challenges of getting hurt in a car accident. With our extensive experience and reputation in the field, we can protect and fight for your rights. Contact us today to discuss the specifics of your case and how we can assist you throughout the process.
We are here 24/7 to address your case. You can speak with a lawyer to request a consultation.1-800-567-HURT
There are many possible causes of traffic accidents or lane change collisions. The most common factors that may contribute to these accidents are the following:
The specific circumstances of the crash will determine who is at fault in a lane change accident. However, in most cases, fault in these collisions falls on the driver who made the improper lane change.
The assistance of a lawyer will be valuable in establishing fault in accidents involving unsafe lane changes. Whether or not you hire a lawyer, gathering and preserving evidence is crucial to proving fault. Here are some common types of evidence you can use to demonstrate liability in unsafe lane accidents:
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