The only thing worse than sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic is getting into a car accident when you are already stressed out in a traffic jam. Car accidents occur during heavy traffic more often than you might think. While many of these accidents are minor fender-benders that do not cause any injuries, some factors can cause more severe collisions.
Motorists tend to be stressed, frustrated, and aggravated when stuck in traffic, mainly if they are in a rush to get where they are going. Some drivers deal with the situation by becoming angry and aggressive. They may abruptly change lanes, cut off other drivers, and make erratic and unpredictable decisions behind the wheel. With more vehicles on the road, there is a greater chance of an accident. In addition, when traffic is at a standstill, there is less room for motorists to get out of the way if they are trying to avoid an accident. Changing lanes can be challenging when other motorists do not share the road or pay attention to other cars in the vicinity. As a result, multi-vehicle accidents are also common in heavy traffic.
Often, drivers become distracted and lose focus when traffic is particularly heavy and traffic is at a standstill. When motorists are tailgating and not paying attention to the vehicle in front of them, they are more likely to cause rear-end accidents. Even when traffic is moving at a painfully slow pace, motorists must leave a safe buffer between their car and the vehicle in front of them.
Road rage and aggressive driving are other common causes of car accidents during heavy traffic. As frustrating as it may be to get stuck in a traffic jam, this is never an excuse to start weaving in and out of the lanes, tailgating, cutting off other drivers or yelling obscenities, or using offensive hand gestures. Even if another vehicle cuts you off or uses an obscene hand gesture, try to remain calm and put distance between you and the other motorist.
In addition to following the rules of the road, there are safety tips that can help you avoid a car accident during heavy traffic:
- Slow down in heavy traffic. As frustrating as it is to be stuck in traffic, and as tempting as it may be to drive fast when traffic lets up, this is never a safe option. Even if you are running late for work or are anxious to get to a party or family gathering, it is never worth the risk of getting into an accident. Follow the speed limit, and drive with traffic flow when cars are moving slowly. If you are going to be late for work, pull over to a safe spot and call your employer to let them know that you will be late.
- Do not weave in and out of lanes. This is another example of an unsafe driving behavior that should be avoided during heavy traffic. It increases the risk of an accident and will probably not get you to your destination any faster.
- Check rearview mirrors regularly. When the roads are congested, you should pay close attention to the other vehicles in the vicinity. That way, you will be more likely to see another motorist approaching in the next lane so you can avoid changing lanes until they have passed you. Checking your mirrors often will also reduce the risk of hitting a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian who may try to cross the street when cars are at a standstill.
- Avoid all distractions. Distracted driving continues to be a significant cause of car accidents in this country. While you may think that sending a quick text or answering a phone call is safe, this is not true. Regardless of the traffic conditions, distracted driving is hazardous and can cause serious car accidents.
What Are the Most Common Types of Accidents That Occur in Heavy Traffic?
During rush hour and other times when traffic is particularly heavy, there is an increased risk for the following types of car accidents:
- Distracted driving accidents: It is common for motorists to read or send text messages, talk on the phone, or engage in other distracting behaviors when they are stuck in traffic. When a motorist’s attention is off the road even for a matter of a few seconds, there is an increased risk of an accident.
- U-turn accidents: While you may be tempted to escape the traffic or find an alternate route by making a U-turn, this can be very dangerous if cars are approaching from the other direction. If you have not carefully checked for oncoming traffic, you could be involved in a T-bone accident which can result in severe injuries.
- Multi-vehicle accidents: These are also common when driving in heavy traffic. If you slam your brakes to avoid rear-ending the car in front of you, the car behind you may not be able to avoid hitting you, which can cause a chain reaction of collisions.
- Collisions on the shoulder: Motorists often use the shoulder as a passing lane or a way to exit the highway without being held up in traffic. However, the shoulder is meant for emergency vehicles during heavy traffic. If you move onto the shoulder without looking, you could cut off a police car, ambulance, or fire truck. In addition to getting into an accident with an emergency vehicle, this will prevent police and emergency medical technicians from responding to a call.
- Road rage accidents: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), road rage is an act of assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the driver toward another motorist. While aggressive driving is a traffic violation, road rage is a crime.
- Head-on collisions: This type of accident can occur when a driver moves into the opposite lane to pass the vehicle in front of them and avoid delays. When there are oncoming vehicles in the opposite lane, this can result in a devastating head-on collision. These often cause severe injuries and fatalities.
What if I am Involved in a Car Accident?
Even if you make every effort to make safety a priority and practice defensive driving, you cannot control how other people drive. If you are injured in a car accident that a negligent driver caused, you may be able to recover financial damages by filing a personal injury claim.
It is essential to understand that Pennsylvania applies modified comparative negligence, which means that you may recover damages if you were 50 percent or less responsible for causing the accident. Pennsylvania is also a “choice no-fault” insurance state, which means that if you chose no-fault coverage when you purchased your policy, you would need to file a claim under your own personal injury protection if you are injured in a car accident. You cannot bring a claim against the other driver unless the claim meets specific prerequisites. Also, you must file a claim within the statute of limitations, which is two years from the date of the accident.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Can Help You if You Have Been Injured in a Heavy Traffic Accident
If you have been injured in a car accident that occurred in heavy traffic, you are urged to contact one of our skilled Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC at your earliest convenience. Call us today at 215-569-8488 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.