Sideswipe accident occurs when the sides of two vehicles traveling in the same or opposite direction makes impact.
The two vehicles make contact, usually when one driver tries to make a lane change and doesn’t see that there’s another car in his blind spot. Sideswipe accident is often referred to as “blind spot accident.”
Other times, sideswipe accidents occur when a distracted, tired, or careless driver drifts into another lane and hits the other car.
These collisions can be extremely dangerous, especially when they occur on highways at high speeds, because neither vehicle is typically aware that the collision is about to occur and, therefore, they are both unprepared. The surprise of the impact can cause the impacted vehicles to lose control or overcompensate while trying to maintain control. This can easily lead to a chain of events where the vehicles swerve from their lanes and impact other vehicles, guardrails, or objects or even slam on the brakes resulting in a rear-end collision. Thus, it is important to understand the causes of these accidents and what to do when they happen.
Causes of Sideswipe accident
According to Popular Mechanics, more than 840,000 sideswipe accidents occur annually in the United States due to vehicle blind spots.
While blind spot-related accidents play a role in sideswipe accidents, the other causes include:
- Driver inattentiveness: We have all witnessed drivers who fail to pay attention to the road ahead while they comb their hair, take a call, send a text, or fiddle with the radio. Drivers who allow distractions to pull their attention away from driving safely often drift out of their lanes and into the paths of other vehicles, heightening the risk of sideswipe collisions.
- Road-raging drivers: Road raging drivers put other drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bike riders in harm’s way by allowing their anger to influence the choices they make behind the wheel. Many of the erratic driving behaviors associated with road rage can lead to dangerous sideswipe collisions, including illegal passing, speeding, not giving other motorists room to maneuver, and intentionally running other drivers off the road.
- Drivers operating under the influence: Drugs and alcohol slow driver response times and make them less likely to make safe decisions behind the wheel. A driver under the influence may, for example, misjudge what constitutes a safe distance between vehicles or may struggle to drive in a lane, which can easily lead to a sideswipe collision.
- Merging without caution: Failure to yield the right of way leads to many sideswipe accidents, particularly at points where roads merge. Drivers tend to make this mistake through inattention or aggressiveness, or failure to clear their blind spots.
- Drowsy driving: Truckers, overnight workers, and others who have not had sufficient sleep risk dozing off while driving. In seconds, a drowsy driver’s vehicle can leave the travel lane and sideswipe another vehicle.
This is not a complete list, of course. No matter what scenario leads to a sideswipe collision, victims can suffer serious injuries that disrupt their lives.
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Other causes include:
- Distracted driving eating on the road
- Distracted driving applying makeup or grooming their hair
- Distracted driver on the phone that doesn’t look for their blind spot when making a lane change
- Tired driver who temporarily falls asleep at the wheel, veering into the other lane
- High-clearance vehicle that fails to look for smaller vehicle next to them during a lane change
- Merging sideswipe, when a car merges onto another road or highway and fails to yield
Common sideswipe accident injuries
A sideswipe accident involves an impact between the side of one vehicle and the side of another. Sometimes, that impact can cause serious vehicle damage and injuries to passengers in its own right.
Sometimes, however, the impact strikes a glancing blow that, while doing relatively minor damage to the vehicles, causes one or both drivers to lose control. After the initial sideswipe impact, vehicles can spin or veer from their lanes and end up in secondary collisions. Those secondary collisions represent the biggest danger of sideswipe collisions and may cause the worst injuries.
Those injuries can include:
- Back and spinal cord injuries, which cause paralysis, chronic pain, and loss of mobility, and can cost millions of dollars to treat over a lifetime.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that inflict physical, cognitive, and emotional impairments, any of which can defy treatment and exact an extreme emotional toll on victims and their families.
- Amputated and crushed limbs, often resulting from a limb becoming pinned under or inside a vehicle that crashes in a secondary accident.
- Burns that inflict agonizing pain, cause a high infection risk, and leave victims to live with painful, disfiguring scars.
- Broken bones and orthopedic injuries that, while they may eventually heal, keep victims out of work and often lead to long-term physical disabilities.
These are just some of the potential injuries a victim of a sideswipe collision accident can face.
Other facts about sideswipe accident
- Over-steering and under-steering while going around steep curves can also cause a sideswipe accident.
- According to data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), 242,000 sideswipe crashes occur every year.
- Sideswipe accidents cause about 27,000 injuries and more than 2,500 fatalities each year.
- Sideswipe accidents can be both “same direction” or “opposite direction.”
- Opposite direction sideswipes occur more frequently than same direction sideswipes.
Ways to prevent sideswipe collision
- Check your blind spot carefully before changing lanes: Every time you change lanes, carefully check your blind spot to ensure another car has not slipped into it while your attention drifted elsewhere. You may also want to carefully watch the flow of traffic while you drive, identifying other drivers in your mirrors and keeping track of them when you know you have a lane change approaching.
- Keep an eye on big trucks and high-clearance vehicles: While the drivers of larger vehicles, including semi trucks, sit high off the road to help improve visibility, they still have large blind spots that can contribute to accident risk. When you travel beside big trucks and high-clearance vehicles, try to stay out of their blind spots, even if that means increasing or decreasing your speed to travel in a safer location. If you notice a large vehicle signaling that it plans to change lanes into a lane you occupy, tap your horn and try to get out of the way if you can do so safely.
- Merge with care: Merging causes drivers to need to look in several directions at once. Merging onto busy roads, in particular, can make it difficult to find exactly the perfect place to slip into traffic. When you need to merge, make sure you have adequate room to pull your vehicle into traffic to complete the maneuver. If you notice another driver trying to merge, try to get your vehicle out of the way, whether that means speeding up to give more room or dropping your speed to allow that driver into traffic.
- Avoid distracted, intoxicated, or drowsy driving: As a driver, you need to stay alert at all times behind the wheel. Your primary responsibility remains driving your vehicle safely, not checking your phone for text messages, eating, carrying on a conversation, or adjusting the temperature in the car. Keep your eyes and attention on the road when you get behind the wheel. If you have had too many drinks, call a designated driver or use Uber, Lyft, or a taxi service to provide a sober ride. By exercising a few simple safety precautions, you can keep yourself and others on the road safer.
- Closely watch other drivers: Any time you share the road with other vehicles, especially in tight traffic, watch other drivers carefully. If you notice drivers behaving erratically, swerving, or driving while distracted, try to stay out of their way. If needed, pull off the road and give dangerous drivers time to pass by to help decrease your likelihood of an accident.
- Have a plan in place to get out of the way: When you find yourself in tight traffic, make sure you have a plan to get out of the way if another driver comes close enough to sideswipe your vehicle. Develop a habit of questioning what other drivers might do, even if the other driver handles his vehicle perfectly. Consider how you might handle the potential for a collision if another driver starts to drift into your lane or abruptly pulls over in front of you. If you do not have adequate room to maneuver or to avoid an accident, you may want to change your location on the road or your speed to help keep yourself and your passengers safer. When you develop the habit of considering where you need to go if you notice the potential for an accident, you increase the odds that you will prepare yourself if a driver does not behave as expected.
- Report erratic drivers: If you notice another driver behaving erratically, especially traveling at excessively high speeds or swerving into other lanes of traffic, pull off of the road safely and report them. Getting off the road can prevent you from suffering serious injuries in an accident, and reporting the driver to the police can help stop other drivers from getting hurt.
- Avoid road rage: You know that avoiding raging yourself can help you avoid many types of accidents. If you notice another driver giving in to road rage, get out of the way. Do not engage with the other driver, including yelling back or using rude hand gestures. By keeping your cool, you can often decrease the odds that the other driver will take out that rage on you.
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How to determine fault in sideswipe accident
All cars have a duty to stay in their lane of travel and not leave it unless it is safe to do so. It is easy to say the car that leaves its lane of travel and makes an unsafe lane change is the car that is at fault for causing the sideswipe accident. But it is not always easy to determine which car left its lane of travel. Sometimes the type of damage and the location of the damage on the vehicles can give you clues. Sometimes where the vehicles came to rest can also give you clues. But most of the time the determination of which vehicle entered the other vehicle’s lane of travel will be based on the car driver’s accounts and the witnesses accounts of what happened. Unfortunately, drivers and witnesses can have different accounts of what happened. For this reason, determining who is at fault for a sideswipe accident can sometimes be difficult.