Unsafe lane change is a common occurrence on New Jersey roadways, sometimes leading to accidents between vehicles or single car crashes where a driver accidentally hits something when crossing between lanes. Even if they do not get in an accident, they can still be in trouble. A police officer can stop a driver for changing lanes without signaling, verifying the lane is clear, or fully completing a lane change. An unsafe lane change is not only a traffic violation warranting a ticket but also a sign of a driver who may be impaired. The illegal lane change draws the attention of the police, who may then suspect the driver is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Once the police pull the driver over, they can attempt to detect intoxication or other impairment. In fact, a traffic infraction like an unsafe lane change is a typical start to a DWI investigation and subsequent DWI Charges.
Defining an Unsafe Lane Change Offense in New Jersey
An unsafe lane change is defined in N.J.S.A. 39:4-88 by what a driver should do to safely change lanes, including driving a car within one lane completely and not changing lanes until it is safe to do so. There is also a mandate to stay in the right-most lane unless passing another car or turning left. This law ensures traffic is orderly and safe when vehicles change pace and drivers know what to expect on the road. Otherwise, an unsafe lane change threatens others’ safety on the road as well as your own.
Proving an Unsafe Lane Change Charge in Court
A prosecutor must first show you’re guilty of the charge, which may not be as easy as it seems. Whether your lane change was unsafe is typically evidenced by an officer’s opinion. The officer who stopped you for the lane change testifies what they observed and deemed a dangerous lane change. An attorney skilled in cross-examination may be able to discredit the officer’s testimony or at least raise doubts about their ability to see your lane change from beginning to end from their location. They may also present other facts that may cause a reasonable person to question the illegality of the maneuver.
Penalties for Unsafe Lane Change in New Jersey
Unsafe lane changes are moving violations warranting an officer to pull a driver over and give them a ticket. Consider the consequences if you have a ticket for an unsafe lane change. To deter unsafe lane changes, the law requires one fined for making a dangerous lane change to pay $50.00 to $200.00 per violation. And if the hazardous lane change occurred in a construction, 65 mile per hour, or safe zone, the fine is twice as high. Not only fines, but you get two points on your driving record and a possible 15-day jail sentence, in an extreme case.
Getting a ticket can be expensive but adding points to your record is even more costly. After 6 points on your driving record, you pay $150.00 in surcharges and $25.00 for each point over six annually for three years. And you spend $33.00 in court fees to dispute the ticket in court. These fees are on top of the insurance premium hikes. Moreover, if you changed lanes in revenge or road rage to hurt someone, a judge could suspend your license if they find you guilty of the charge.
Even though traffic tickets may not seem so bad, they do affect your wallet. Your insurance premiums are likely to increase with each violation. Thus, a $150.00 fine to pay off a ticket may not seem terrible, but if you calculate the monthly insurance premium increase of only $25.00 a month, that is still hundreds of dollars annually. And the increase is likely even greater. Your premium can go up 10 to 20% with just one ticket and substantially more after subsequent tickets.
Is It Serious if I Get a Traffic Summons for Unsafely Changing Lanes?
With so many people on the road traveling to and from work, school, vacation, visiting relatives, or grocery stores, it’s no wonder drivers wander about in a distracted haze, figuring out where they must go next. And this is especially true around the holidays when gift-giving and celebratory events have folks scrambling from store to store. However, even on an ordinary day, you are bound to find several daydreaming drivers not paying attention to the light changes or the cars behind them when they change lanes. Distracted driving by thoughts, phones, radios, or passengers is not uncommon but extremely dangerous.
Accidents happen when drivers are inattentive. They get lost in thought, forget their destination, and suddenly swerve across two lanes to get off the exit ramp in time. Other drivers change lanes indecisively, straddling two lanes for a while before deciding to change or stay. All of this sounds relatively minor, but police and prosecutors consider it a major problem, warranting severe consequences. Things quickly get substantially more dire when an initial traffic offense like improper turn or unsafe lane change results in your being arrested for a DUI.
Do I Need a Lawyer for an Unsafe Lane Change Ticket in NJ?
Since you will pay a hefty sum for the ticket plus insurance premium increases and still get points on your driving record, you are better off fighting the ticket if you have grounds to do so. Finding a skilled traffic attorney to help you fight a ticket is wise, especially if you have points on your record already. You are only allowed up to 12 points before you chance losing your license, and driving on a suspended license only compounds problems if the police catch you. If you have an unsafe lane change ticket, you want to check your options with an attorney who can detail the strategies for beating a ticket. After hearing how the police stopped you and what occurred at the stop, your attorney may advise you to challenge the ticket in court. They know the laws that the police must obey to make a legal stop and the traffic laws that govern the roads.
If you cannot beat the ticket, an attorney may be able to negotiate the violation down to a lesser infraction that does not carry points on your driving record. That may assist you with your insurance premiums, increased license renewal fees, and accumulated points. An attorney can also raise convincing arguments to the judge for you to pay lesser fees and fines if your circumstances warrant a fee reduction.
Aside from providing a solid defense or negotiating a better outcome and lower costs, an experienced defense lawyer is your counselor. They can advise you on the best strategies and actions to take in your defense and words to the wise for the future. An attorney must see your case’s possible strengths and weaknesses and find the best option within the range of possibilities for your case outcomes. Knowing what other clients, judges, and prosecutors have done in similar situations makes your case easier to explain and predict the probable consequences.
Connect With a Traffic Attorney Defending Unsafe Lane Change and Drunk Driving Cases in Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, Secaucus, and Throughout Hudson County NJ
If you received a ticket for unsafe lane change, improper turn, speeding, careless driving, running a stop sign, reckless driving, or drunk driving, call a traffic attorney at our Hudson County defense firm to discuss solutions to your problem. With decades of combined experience successfully handling DWI and traffic cases in towns like Bayonne, Kearny, Union City, Jersey City, Secaucus, Weehawken, and Guttenberg, you can count on our skill and forethought to protect your interests. We offer free consultations, so call (201) 793-8018 to talk to a traffic lawyer now.