Driving safely means constantly adjusting your control of the vehicle for environmental conditions. As traffic changes, you may have to adjust your behavior. People often have to merge in traffic for numerous different reasons.
They may need to complete a zipper merge as they approach a road construction zone. They may need to move to a different lane on an interstate to successfully exit on the surface streets. Merging comes with significant risk and is often the maneuver someone performs immediately before a crash occurs.
Are you automatically at fault if you merged into another lane of traffic and a collision results?
Either party might be to blame in a merge-related crash
There is no black-and-white answer about who is to blame when a collision occurs between a vehicle in a lane of traffic and another vehicle merging into that lane. Either of you could potentially be to blame for the crash.
As the party changing lanes, you need to prioritize properly monitoring your surroundings. You should be aware of the other vehicles nearby so that you don’t cut someone off. In a scenario where you merge immediately in front of another vehicle or fail to spot them and sideswipe them, the police officer responding to the crash could very well hold you accountable.
Drivers could also find themselves at fault for a merge-related incident if they did not use their turn signal. However, you could properly signal your merge and get hit by someone who drove aggressively and rear-ended you anyway. Maybe they merged from a different lane into the same lane as you and had failed to look for other moving vehicles nearby before doing so.
The damage to your vehicles, the statements made by the drivers involved and even traffic camera footage can influence who a police officer determines is at fault for a crash that occurs when someone merges.
Careful driving can reduce your risk
You have no control over when someone else might slam on the gas unexpectedly and rear-end you, nor can you prevent someone who wants to cross four lanes of traffic very quickly and enters the lane that you were merging into at the same time as you from doing so. Still, being as cautious as possible and carefully monitoring your surroundings can go a long way toward reducing your risk of a crash. You also need to ensure that the police report reflects your perspective.
Speaking up at the scene of a motor vehicle collision and asserting yourself can be very important when you want to hold the other driver accountable for causing the crash.