Freeway lane changes can be hazardous

The in basket: Jim Hazel writes, “Coming back from the airport, I was following a car that decided to move right to a slower lane at the same time as a person two lanes over tried to move left into the same spot. Fortunately, they both backed off before there was a problem, but my son and I got into a debate about who had the ‘right of way’ in that situation.

“My son suggested that the person moving right had precedence over the person moving left.  I said that they are both under a responsibility to avoid dangerous lane changes and that there is no ‘right of way’.  We both agreed that it is a moot point and perhaps would come down to the last person with a clear chance to avoid a collision.

“Do you know what the State Patrol’s position on this situation would be?”

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger of the local detachment replies, “Any time you are changing lanes you are required to yield to vehicles previously occupying the lane. In the case your writer describes, the decision and action to change lanes occurred simultaneously – apparently – and neither driver was aware of the other vehicle until the last second where both recognized the situation and took evasive action to avoid a collision. This probably happens countless times a day on the multiple lane freeway of the I-5 corridor.

“This could be because of blind spots, not checking mirrors, defective or missing mirrors, driver distraction in or out of the vehicle, and the all-important last-second head checks that may or may not have taken place.

“You have to sort through the possibilities in a collision investigation and the bold answer is not always staring at you,” Russ said. “In the event of a collision, absent any independent witnesses that could shed more light on the ‎event, and possible physical evidence on roadway that could suggest impact point in lane,  both drivers could be cited for improper lane change,” he said.

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