We’ve all been there, driving along enjoying ABBA’s “Greatest Hits” CD — which you naturally tell your friends was left in the car by your kooky mother-in-law — when someone in the lane next to you unexpectedly cuts over in front of you. Last-minute turns, swerving unexpectedly, and changing lanes without first checking the lane you’re about to move into are the primary reasons drivers receive the not-so-common citation of an “unsafe lane change” in Texas.
Typically a ticket for an unsafe lane change will cost in the range of $167 to $200. However, in reality, the state-mandated fine schedules are often more complicated. Unsafe lane changes, depending on the circumstances involved, can quickly become reckless driving charges that carry far greater penalties. Furthermore, these citations add points to a driver’s record and require that they either be contested in court, or that the driver attend a state-approved defensive driving online course to dismiss the citation before it potentially impacts the driver’s insurance rates.
The Defensive Driving Definition of an “Unsafe Lane Change”
What exactly is an “unsafe lane change”? According to the Texas Transportation Code, an unsafe lane change is any activity that, by it’s undertaking, creates an unreasonable level of risk for the driving conditions. In practice, unsafe lane change citations typically involve a vehicle entering a lane already occupied in close proximity by another vehicle. The most common causes of unsafe lane change tickets are drivers attempting to exit a freeway by crossing multiple lanes in rapid succession too close to the actual exit. Another common cause involves cars entering a freeway or major thoroughfare but not providing adequate room between their vehicle and vehicles already traveling in that lane — often causing the other vehicle to brake or swerve to avoid a potential collision.
Fighting an “Unsafe Lane Change” TicketInterestingly, citations for making an “unsafe lane change” are arguably the most contested type of moving violations. While the success rate for fighting and winning these citations is relatively low, each circumstance merits its own consideration. Drivers fighting these tickets most commonly refer to avoiding road debris or other “careless” drivers on the road as the reasons they had to make a sudden lane change.
If you decide to contest your citation, be prepared — the burden of reasonable circumstance belongs to you. Telling a judge “I was avoiding a piece of road debris” or “flying monkeys were attacking my car” will not suffice. Unless the ticketing officer does not appear in court, or there was clear evidence of plausible danger in the driver’s path, having an unsafe lane change citation dismissed is not common.
Being Ticketed for Unsafe Lane Changes and Attending a Texas Defensive Driving Online Course
Fortunately for drivers in this situation, Texas defensive driving online and traffic school programs offer a convenient means of dismissing the points from their record, saving drivers from potentially increased insurance premiums. While attending a state-approved driver safety course does not negate the need to pay the actual fine, it can prevent unwanted points from appearing on your record and potentially save you an insurance rate increase by as much as 20 percent for up to three years.
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