Sideswipe collisions have a reputation as a relatively minor motor vehicle accident. In truth, these crashes can cause severe damage and catastrophic injury. In this blog post, we examine sideswipe collisions in detail: how they occur, what you can do to keep yourself safe from one, and how an attorney can help if a sideswipe collision injures you or a loved one. For more information about your legal rights, contact an experienced car accident injury attorney today.
What Is a Sideswipe Collision?
A sideswipe occurs when the side of one car impacts the side of the other at a low angle, hence the characterization of the crash as one car swiping the other. Sideswipe collisions tend to happen wherever vehicles occupy adjacent travel lanes.
The most common settings for a sideswipe collision include:
- Merge points on roads or highways, especially at highway on-ramps.
- Highways with multiple travel lanes.
- Narrow roads with one lane in each direction.
- Narrow one-way streets lined with parked vehicles.
Unlike some collisions, the force of impact in a sideswipe collision rarely halts the momentum of a vehicle in motion. The danger of sideswipe collisions, instead, often lies in the follow-on effects of the initial impact. Sideswipes frequently take one or both drivers by surprise. As a result, drivers risk losing control of their vehicles after the initial impact by oversteering. A sideswipe may also spin one or both vehicles sideways, exposing them to a deadly secondary T-bone collision.
The bottom line is that sideswipe collisions can have catastrophic consequences. Do not take the risk of them lightly.
Victims of sideswipe accidents risk suffering all manner of serious, even fatal, injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries, suffered when a driver or passenger sustains a blow or jolt to the head in the initial or secondary collision;
- Spinal cord injuries, especially if the sideswipe turns a car sideways, exposing it to a secondary T-bone collision;
- Severe lacerations from glass and debris that enter the vehicle in a sideswipe collision; and
- Complex bone fractures suffered in the initial or secondary impact.
No matter how a sideswipe collision injured you, chances are you have legal rights to seek compensation for your injuries. Contact an experienced motor vehicle accident injury attorney today to learn more.
Why Do Sideswipe Collisions Occur?
Sideswipe collisions can occur because of a variety of factors, most of which involve some degree of preventable driver error. In the aftermath of a sideswipe collision, attorneys often seek out evidence to determine whether one or more of the following careless or reckless driving behaviors contributed to the crash (a sign, oftentimes, of who might have legal liability for damages the crash caused)
Driver distraction. Driver distraction can, in many cases, prove as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Distracted drivers can drift into another lane of traffic: either an oncoming lane or a lane of traffic traveling parallel to them. Distracted drivers can also fail to check their blind spots before merging or changing lanes, which can lead to a sideswipe collision.
Most people assume that if they stay off the phone while driving, or at least avoid texting and driving, they have no risk of distraction.
Driver distraction, however, can take these forms, too:
- Carrying-on a conversation, either on the phone or with someone in the vehicle;
- Disciplining children;
- Trying to pick up something that has fallen under the driver’s feet;
- Changing the music or adjusting the temperature controls in the vehicle;
- Putting on makeup;
- Eating and drinking, especially eating and drinking messy food; or
- Checking or programming the GPS.
Drug or alcohol impairment. Drunk and drugged drivers cannot control their vehicles safely. Their intoxication causes them to:
- Fail to note the presence of other vehicles around them due to tunnel vision;
- Forget to properly check blind spots before changing lanes or merging;
- Lack the control to keep the vehicle in its proper lane; and
- Fail to pay adequate attention to driving, causing the vehicle to drift off course.
All these factors can substantially increase the risk of a drunk or drugged driver causing a sideswipe collision.
Speeding. High rates of speed make it difficult for a driver to control a vehicle, and to avoid a collision if a vehicle drifts off course. A sideswipe collision at high speeds is also likely to result in a loss of control and a secondary collision.
Poor weather conditions. Poor weather conditions impair visibility, which in turn increases the risk of a driver failing to see another vehicle close by or failing to judge the distance separating one vehicle from another. (Even driving at night can make it more difficult to discern the presence of another vehicle.) Not only that, in rain and snow, a car’s tires may slip, causing it to come out of its lane and cause a sideswipe collision.
Aggressive driving and road rage. Aggressive drivers often lose focus on road conditions that can heighten the risk of a sideswipe collision. They fail to merge safely, zip in and out of lanes of traffic, or attempt unsafe passing. Virtually any sort of aggressive, reckless driving behavior increases the risk of a sideswipe accident.
Driver error. Sometimes, sideswipe collisions occur due to simple driver error. A driver can follow all the rules of the road, avoid inebriation, and keep distractions out of the vehicle, but a simple error can quickly lead to an accident. Drivers may fail to look properly before changing lanes, time a merge incorrectly, or fail to keep a vehicle in its proper lane during a turn. Some drivers may also over-correct after coming out of a turn, causing them to drift into another line of traffic. Many minor errors can quickly lead to sideswipe collisions, especially on dangerous, tight roads.
Seven Ways to Avoid Sideswipe Collisions
Sideswipe collisions often happen without warning. Follow these steps to minimize your chances of a sideswipe.
- Avoid distractions. Never allow yourself to get distracted while driving. If you must engage in a potentially distracting behavior, such as talking on the phone or checking your GPS, make sure that you pull off the road first. On busy highways, in particular, keep your attention focused on driving, not on the multitude of other distractions that clamor for your attention.
- Practice situational awareness. Avoiding a sideswipe collision sometimes comes down to reaction time. You can maximize your ability to react behind the wheel by staying alert to other vehicles on the road. If you notice another driver swerving all over the road or struggling to keep his vehicle in his lane, then give him a wide berth. Always look twice in your mirrors to make sure the lane you plan to merge into is free of traffic. Remind yourself to look out not just for cars and trucks, but also motorcycles and bicycles.
- Time your merges carefully. Merging onto a highway poses a heightened danger for sideswipe collisions. With cars traveling at a high rate of speed, it can prove difficult to find the perfect place to slip into traffic. Time your merge carefully. Try to match speeds with the other drivers on the road and decide where you plan to put your car as you move up the ramp, rather than waiting until the last minute to choose your opening.
- Leave enough room for big trucks to make wide turns. Big trucks often cause sideswipe collisions because the driver fails to note the presence of smaller passenger vehicles in his blind spot. If you see a truck driver signaling intent to change lanes or make a turn, back off and give the driver enough room to accomplish the maneuver, even if it means slowing your rate of speed or even, in some cases, stopping to allow a truck to proceed safely through an intersection.
- Be deliberate in changing lanes. Avoid quick lane changes that do not give you adequate time to take in your surroundings, or do not give other motorists adequate time to react to you. Instead, take the time to carefully look around you. Check your blind spots carefully. Use your signal lights. Do not try to sneak in front of another vehicle. Be patient.
- Leave yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. Try not to head out of the house in a desperate hurry. Speeding and aggressive driving can substantially increase your risk of sideswipe collisions, especially if you fail to pay adequate attention to other vehicles around you. Instead, leave plenty of time and obey the rules of the road. You will, as a result, significantly increase your odds of reaching your destination safely.
- Avoid driving on the shoulder of the road. Some drivers may attempt to drive on the shoulder of the road to avoid traffic. Impatient drivers sometimes take to the shoulder to sneak around bottlenecks. Do not be that driver. Since traffic can start moving again at any moment, driving on the shoulder and then attempting to merge back into traffic may lead to a sideswipe collision.
What to Do After a Sideswipe Collision: Six Steps You Should Take
Even if you do your best to prevent a sideswipe collision, it can still happen. Follow these steps to keep yourself and your family safe if your next drive ends in a sideswipe accident.
- Stay at the scene of the accident unless you need to leave for medical reasons. Leaving the scene of any collision, including a sideswipe accident, can violate the law. To not risk getting charged with a hit-and-run. Remain at the scene of the accident until police arrive.
- Prepare to move your vehicle, if you can and need to. If you suffer a sideswipe collision on the highway, you may need to move your vehicle out of the traffic lanes. Snap a few photos of the accident scene before moving your vehicle. You also do not need to move your vehicle if you suffered a serious injury or if moving the vehicle poses a danger to you or other vehicle occupants.
- Examine everyone in the vehicle for injuries. Passengers on the side of the vehicle involved in the collision may have the highest likelihood of some types of injuries. Every individual in the vehicle, however, should get checked over for serious injury. After any type of accident, including a sideswipe collision, make medical attention your first priority, including visiting an urgent care center or emergency room for a full evaluation of your injuries. Keep in mind that adrenaline can mask many serious injuries. If anyone in your vehicle loses consciousness for even moments, have them evaluated for traumatic brain injury.
- Follow all instructions given to you by first responders. Sideswipe collisions often occur in dangerous locations, including highways and intersections. The dangerous location can add risk to the accident scene. Make sure you follow all instructions given to you by first responders, including policemen, firemen, and ambulance drivers.
- Contact your insurance company. Report the accident. Provide access to a copy of the police report, if needed. Your insurance company will need to know about the accident, especially if a sideswipe collision totals your car and you need to replace it. Be careful, however, to stick only to the facts when notifying your insurance company of what happened. Do not say anything that your insurance representative could misinterpret accepting fault for what happened.
- Contact an attorney as soon as possible. Attorneys help victims of all kinds of car accidents recover the compensation they deserve for their injuries and losses. The sooner you contact an attorney, the better your chances of receiving compensation to help you pay for your physical and emotional recovery from a frightening accident.
Sideswipe collisions injure thousands of people every year. By paying attention to the road, you can reduce your odds of getting into a sideswipe accident, and of getting injured if a sideswipe does occur. To learn more about your rights after any motor vehicle accident, contact an experienced car accidnet attorney without delay.