We’ve all seen it before. You’re driving along, minding your surroundings and obeying traffic laws like a good driver. You come upon another car that keeps drifting into your lane, straddling the line and back again, and you rightfully start to worry. Worse still, you might spy a car in your rear-view weaving in and out of traffic aggressively and narrowly cutting in front of other cars.
They might be distracted or impaired, or they could just be having a bad day and in a rush to get home—we’ve all been there. Either way, it’s dangerous for themselves and everyone else around them. You want to get around them, but their unpredictable driving makes it difficult.
While erratic driving is often indicative of illegal behavior, drifting in and out of lanes or aggressively weaving through traffic are themselves traffic violations. Generally, the offense for failing to maintain one’s car in one lane is often called “failure to maintain lane,” oddly enough. In Oklahoma, the actual citation is “improper lane change,” but the principle is the same: stay in your lane.
Penalties for failure to maintain lane or improper lane change
Across Oklahoma, “improper lane change” and other similar offenses are considered traffic violations. Usually, the penalty for improper lane change is $183, according to the City of Oklahoma’s Municipal Court’s website.
However, if a driver is also speeding or otherwise driving recklessly, those citations and associated penalties will be tacked on and can add up to a thousand dollars or more. If said driving also results in a wreck, suffice it to say it does not bode well for the driver.
All of these traffic violations carry points on your license or flags on your driving and insurance records. The number of points depends on which and how many violations were cited, but receiving more than 10 points in a 5-year period will result in loss of driver’s license for 1 month. Subsequent suspensions increase in length up to 1 year for a 4th point suspension. Those are heavy penalties.
In addition to fines and points, insurance premiums will also go up considerably with any traffic violations or collisions. The hits just keep coming.
How to avoid failure to maintain lane or improper lane change wrecks
The best defense against someone who’s drifting between lanes or aggressively swerving through traffic is to be extra aware of your surroundings and give them ample space.
Depending on what kind of road you’re travelling on and what the other vehicle is doing, you have a couple options.
- If a car is driving slow and drifting between lanes, hang back a bit and wait for them to turn, or make a turn yourself if it’s not too out of the way. It’s better to be late than dead on time, as they say.
- If a car is speeding and overtaking traffic, slow down and let them pass.
- For drifters, again hang back a bit and wait until there’s enough space to pass them. Try to pass to the left, but if they’re travelling (unsafely) in that lane, it’s okay to pass on the right. Don’t be afraid to gun it past them so as to not linger in their path.
- For aggressive drivers weaving in and out, maintain speed or slow down and stay in your lane and again let them pass, and be aware that their recklessness could cause wrecks ahead.
Stay in your lane: How to properly change lanes
As a refresher for those of us who may have slept through driver’s ed, we’ll outline how to travel safely and properly change lanes. Get ready to take notes.
- Slower traffic should keep right but maintain the speed limit. Always adjust your speed depending on road conditions, but you should rarely need to drive more than 5–10 miles under the speed limit unless conditions are bad.
- Use your turn signal for all lane changes and turns. Again for the BMW drivers: Use your turn signal for all lane changes and turns. You should signal about 300 feet from your turn or lane change.
- Check your rear-view mirror, your side mirrors, then your blind spot before you turn or change lanes, preferably in that order. You’ll see any vehicles coming up behind you, those which are behind you to the side, and which ones are riding right next to you. As a side note, don’t linger in another car’s blind spot. If you’re passing a car, pass them and then move over; don’t match their speed and hang out where they can’t see you.
- Once you’ve changed lanes, stay in that lane for at least 300 feet or so. Don’t cut across 4 lanes of traffic to make an exit at the last moment. That’s a great way to cause a wreck and get yourself several traffic citations.
- Stay focused on the road, beware of your surroundings at all times—especially when turning and changing lanes—and you should be good to go.
When a driver fails to maintain their lane, not only does it impede traffic, but it can cause accidents too. For example, a driver straddling a dividing line prevents the card behind them from passing when necessary. A driver drifting into another lane can sideswipe the car next to it. A driver erratically changing lanes doesn’t give the drivers around them enough time to stop or slow down to allow them to change lanes safely. All of these behaviors can result in serious collisions. What’s more, repeat offenses will result in increasing penalties up to and including loss of driver’s license.
If you or someone you know were involved in a collision where the driver failed to stay in their lane, contact Lloyd & Lloyd to discuss your legal options. We’ve been helping our clients get the justice and compensation they deserve for over 40 years.