Preventing Sideswipe Collisions

 New Jersey Turnpike

Some Findings

Some findings from a truck safety and operational study . . .  (N.J. Turnpike)

Overall, more crashes occur in the outer lanes than in the inner lanes.

Sideswipe collisions occur more frequently than any other type of crashes in both the inner and outer lanes. Sideswipe collisions occur more frequently in outer lanes than inner lanes.

Rear-end collisions occur more frequently in outer lanes than inner lanes, which may suggest increased speed variations or unstable traffic conditions.


About 45 percent of all truck-related crashes are categorized as sideswipe collisions.

Sideswipe Collisions can be Dangerous

One consequence of a truck sideswipe collision is a fuel fire.

This collision between two tractor trailers occurred in August 2015 in the outer northbound lanes at exit nine in East Brunswick Township on the N.J. Turnpike, resulted in minor injuries to the drivers.

8-12-15 outer northbound lanes at exit nine in East Brunswick Township

Due to their prevalence, drivers should be made aware of the risks of sideswipe or “blind spot” collisions. One study of 16,264 car-truck collisions found the truck at fault in over half of sideswipe collisions.

According to the National Safety Council:

A blind spot is never a valid excuse for lane-encroachment collisions. Drivers must make extra allowances to protect themselves in areas of limited sight distances.

Collisions While Being Passed

Sideswipes and cut-offs are preventable when the professional driver fails to yield to the passing vehicle by slowing down.

If the professional fails to move to the right when possible, the collision is also preventable

Management and fleet supervisors need to establish standards for defensive driving in any type of fleet safety program. (Hartford Insurance)

Unsafe Driving Acts

The top 2 ranked Unsafe Driving Acts of car drivers are:

  1. Driving inattentively (e.g., reading, talking on the phone, etc.)
  2. Merging improperly into traffic, causing a truck to maneuver or brake quickly

Truck drivers behaviors leading to crashes also include inattention, distraction, and failure to follow correct procedures. Sideswipe collisions usually occur while merging or passing.

Sideswipe Countermeasures

Accident countermeasures are examples of Defensive Driving strategies designed to reduce preventable accidents. The objective of countermeasures is to reduce motor carrier fleet accident rates by establishing a company standard for safe driving.

A sideswipe collision is considered preventable if the:

  • Driver was not entirely in their proper lane of travel
  • Driver did not pull to right and slow down or stop for vehicle encroaching on their lane of travel when such action could have been taken without additional danger
  • Driver was passing slower traffic near an intersection and had to make sudden stop
  • Driver made a sudden stop to park, load or unload
  • Driver rolled back into vehicle behind them while starting on a grade
  • Vehicle was improperly parked.

Additionally, drivers should . . .

  • Avoid changing lanes unless really necessary.
  • Signal lane change intentions well ahead of time.
  • Take time to look carefully before changing lanes.
  • Slow down and always maintain a generous following distance and space cushion based on traffic conditions and the vehicle’s size, weight, and stopping distance.

While most of this appears to be common sense, the number one safety tool is awareness, at all levels of operations. Once made aware, drivers can change or modify their driving behaviors and choices.

Thank you for reading this.

Related: Driver Behaviors as Predictors of Crashes