As any paramedic will tell you, no two accident scenes are identical. Sometimes, cars hit each other head-on and other times, they barely touch. The most common type of accident is rear-end collisions, but that doesn’t mean it is the only type of accident you should be concerned about.

One of the less common types of accidents, a sideswipe accident, can easily be as dangerous as any other type of car accident. While this type of accident doesn’t result in the same level of direct impact between two cars as a head-on or rear-end collision, the resulting consequences can be even worse.

What makes a sideswipe collision so dangerous, and what can you do to avoid this type of accident?

Basic Facts About Sideswipe Accidents

A sideswipe accident is any accident in which a collision occurs between two vehicles moving roughly parallel to each other. Typically, the vehicles are moving in the same direction, but a sideswipe accident can also occur between two vehicles moving in opposite directions.

According to the National Safety Commission, sideswipe accidents account for a little less than 5% of the roughly 6 million car accidents that happen every year. While that may sound unthreatening, that still accounts for 27,000 reported injuries and 2,500 fatalities every year.

What Causes Sideswipe Accidents?

Several factors can cause these types of accidents. In most cases, something causes one of the two vehicles to drift into the wrong lane while driving parallel to another vehicle.

Drowsy Driving

According to the NHTSA, drowsy driving was responsible for 633 deaths in 2020. When someone drives while fatigued, they have decreased motor control and reflexes. And if they fall asleep while driving, their vehicle will almost always drift out of the current lane.

When this drifting occurs toward the side of the road, the driver will often be shocked awake by rumble strips or the edge of the road. But when they drift into another lane, unless the other driver is paying close attention, they are likely to get into an accident.

The best way to avoid accidents from drowsy driving is to never drive while fatigued. 

You might think you can keep yourself awake with:

  • Caffeine
  • Loud music
  • Open windows
  • Air conditioning
  • Bright lights

Unfortunately, evidence shows that while these can help fight drowsiness a little bit, none of them will stop you from drifting off. If you feel tired, the safest choice is to stop somewhere and get a good night’s sleep or a long nap at a minimum.

Switching Lanes

Another common cause of sideswipe accidents is the act of switching lanes. Before you switch lanes, you are supposed to signal your intentions to switch far in advance and check your mirrors to ensure the lane you want to move to is empty. Since all mirrors have a blind spot, you should also briefly turn your head to look for cars.

Unfortunately, many drivers don’t signal and may even barely check their mirrors before moving. And if there is a car in the other lane, that is very likely to result in a sideswipe accident.

The easiest way to avoid this danger is to always follow all traffic rules carefully when switching lanes. And if you have any concern that you might have missed a car, move slowly to allow another car to respond if you missed it in your blind spot.

Similarly, when driving on a multi-lane road, keep a close eye on any cars you think might move into your lane.

Distracted Driving

The world changed forever when smartphones and tablets were invented. Previously, drivers might be briefly distracted by food or the radio but usually focused on the road. Today, many drivers divert a significant portion of their attention to digital devices, and this has resulted in an uptick in accidents.

Reaching for a phone to respond to a text or watching a YouTube video while driving has roughly the same effect as driving while fatigued. Your reflexes are reduced, and your car is likely to drift out of your lane. There is a reason texting and driving is illegal in almost every state.

The best way to avoid a distracted driving accident is to not use any electronic devices other than GPS while driving a car. If you get a text you think is important, pull over and respond when your vehicle is safely stopped.

To avoid other distracted drivers, pay attention to the people driving cars near you. If you see someone constantly looking down, they are probably using an electronic device. While you can’t stop them, you can slow down until they are far away or choose another route.

Consequences of Sideswipe Collisions

The biggest danger of a sideswipe collision, especially at high speeds, is that one or both drivers will lose control of their vehicle. This means that they may go careening off the road and hit a stationary object, pedestrians, or other hazards.

This can be worse than the much more common rear-end accident. When two cars strike in a rear-end accident, while there may be a lot of damage to the cars, usually that is mitigated because they are moving with similar velocity and direction. However, there is no mitigation when a car careens into a stationary object. 

Furthermore, car safety features are designed primarily to protect against head-on or rear-end collisions. If the side of your car slams into a brick building, airbags and seat belts will do little to protect you. Even the crumple zones aren’t well designed for that situation.

Always Be Wary of Other Cars to Avoid Sideswipe Collisions

Sideswipe accidents are dangerous but also relatively easy to avoid if you are wary of other vehicles on the road. When driving on multi-lane roads, watch for vehicles swerving near the edge of their lane. And if you see that, pull over until you are certain you are safe.

Contact the Houston Car Accident Lawyers at Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers For Help

For more information, contact the Houston car accident law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000.

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