Swerve or don't swerve on the highway.

You’re driving down the highway. Someone beside you doesn’t see you and is coming into your lane (and your car) and is about to “trade paint” with you.

Do you swerve to get out of the way possibly involving others in the accident or do you take the hit while keeping control of your car?

Keep your head about you and smoothly move over. Don’t jerk the wheel. Pay attention to the shoulder to make sure it’s wide enough and hard enough to safely allow you to move part of your car into it.

If I didn’t move out of the way whenever someone tried to lane change into me, I would have had half a dozen accidents from it over the years. And being hit by another car is not necessarily just ‘trading paint’. If the other car hits you and then violently swerves away it may go out of control, taking you with it. If the car is slightly ahead of you when it hits you, it may rotate in front of your car due to the inadvertent ‘Pitts manoever’. If it’s slightly behind you, it may rotate YOUR car into the ditch or into oncoming traffic.

The best advice is to stay out of people’s blind spots, drive defensively, make sure they see you before you pass them, etc. Ride a motorcycle for a couple of years, and you WILL learn to pay attention to what the other driver is doing, because an accident that might result in a paint scrape on a car can kill a motorcyclist. Driving defensively is mandatory.

I, too, hate making that call. I think it’s probably a case by case decision. Like above, drive as defensively as you can. Don’t drive sleepy or impaired. Don’t use the cell phone.

This happened to me yesterday, actually. I swerved and honked. If it wasn’t safe to swerve, I’d have hit the brakes. If that would have put a driver behind me in danger, I’d have taken the hit. I always keep a mental inventory of vehicles around me, and intuitively know where I have an “out” if an emergency maneuver is needed. Any driver who is not doing this automatically at all times is either inexperienced or doing it wrong.

Stay in my lane, slow down gently, honk loudly. I know there’s no way I can perform the maneuver “check next lane, process information about its clearness or otherwise, move over safely” in time to get out of the way of someone who’s already on the move.

As accidents go, a scraping is far less bad than a potential T-bone. My car’s 23 years old, I’m not worried about my paint,. Too bad for him if he is

Username checks out.

Just brake. No need to involve other people/lanes.

Again, any time two cars contact each other at highway speeds, it is a potentially deadly situation. Many people have no idea how easy it is to lose control of a vehicle at highway speeds after a contact. It’s a surprise for at least one driver, who may react by violently swerving away from the contact, instigating a bigger crash. If the cars are not exactly parallel, they may start to rotate. So if you can safely move over, you should.

Even slowing down can be dangerous, because if the car is paralleling you, slowing down may cause him to hit the front quarter of your car instead of broadside, and if that happens there are good odds that at least one vehicle is going out of control. If you are in his blind spot and he starts to change over, braking is the right thing to do. If you are almost parallel, you would have to panic brake to get out of his way in time, and maybe not then. Panic braking at highway speeds is also a good way to instigate a crash.

As for processing whether the shoulder is safe in a split second - you shouldn’t. Part of defensive driving is to have that information at hand already. You should be paying attention to the road, including the condition of the shoulder. Of course, we all fail at this sometimes, but it should be the goal. Defensive driving is all about situational awareness.

don’t swerve, especially w/o looking. Take the hit and let the other person be at fault. if you swerve and hit someone else, you are now at fault for that collision.

I’ve been in this situation. It depends. if you’re not keeping up with situational awareness then you don’t know what’s around you.

When it happened to me there was a car next to me coming up from behind. He had a good shoulder to take up some of the slack. I took some of his lane while slowing down at the same time to give the encroaching truck some open space. It was a commercial vehicle and it would have been a mess if he hit me.

It’s not a matter of avoiding loss of paint. it’s a matter of avoiding loss of control or causing someone else to lose control.

An example of what not to do: I’ve lost control because a deer ran in front of me and I slammed on the brakes and tried to steer around it. It was a front wheel drive car without anti-lock brakes.
The weight difference in a front wheel drive car makes it easier for the car to rotate. Once that starts there is no controlling the car. I ended up on the shoulder of the opposing lane of traffic facing the other way.

It’s sort of two questions: what *should *you do and what would or do you do?

I’m a defensive driver and I give myself the time and space to react to things, and I’m aware of what other drivers are doing (+1 for riding a motorcycle helping to hone these skills).

But I have had little experience with “near misses”, and so I would not claim that when some unexpected event rapidly occurs I will not swerve too far over or brake too hard, or not control a skid correctly.

I try to avoid driving in people’s blind spots. But when I do, I always have an exit plan. Most of the time it’s just hit the brakes.

I still recall an incident several decades ago on I-80 (I think it was still called the Nimitz Freeway then) just north of the “West Oakland Maze.” I was in the #3 lane northbound. Some clown entered the #5 lane blindly from an on-ramp, forcing an 18()-wheeler to move into the #4 lane. There was already a different 18()-wheeler in the #4 lane, but he immediately slid into the #3 lane. I must have been on proper dosages that day, because I, in perfect harmony, immediately slipped into the #2 lane which, fortunately, chose that moment to be empty! The truck-driver now in #3 and I exchanged smiles as I passed him. The two trucks and I were essentially all adjacent: braking was not an option.

(* - I’m rather certain those trucks had 18 wheels each, although in the confusion I neglected to actually count them. :smack: In those days almost all big-rigs in the lower 48 had exactly 18 wheels altogether. Is that still the case?)

Highway excitement in California cannot compare with the thrills on Thailand’s roads! Buy me a beer and I’ll start an MPSIMS thread. :slight_smile:

I try to maintain situational awareness and ensure it doesn’t get that far. Usually a quick toot on the horn is enough.

That said, the real danger is not other cars but HGVs like lorries and busses. They have mass on their side and slowing down just means they hit you farther back. So you have to move over.

depends on the truck. your “standard” tractor/trailer has 18 wheels. 2 steer wheels at the front of the tractor, and 8 drive wheels (two dually axles, 4 tires per axle.) Then the trailer has two dually axles for another 8 tires. 2+8+8=18.

now, heavy construction trucks like gravel haulers (like this one ) can have more than 18.

Yes the whole question tends to come down to what’s on either side of you and whether you know. When possible I position myself on highways as far away from other clumps of cars as possible, but it’s not always possible. I try to be aware what’s on both sides all the time, but it’s not always possible (for me) either.

I took the BMW ‘performance driving school’ course. Despite the name a lot of it is safety stuff, max braking, evasion, spin recovery etc. though also competitive timed laps and other stuff more like what you’d think. The principal in the high speed evasion exercise is don’t try to brake if you’ve chosen to evade. The separate braking exercise let’s you realize you’re not likely to really use the brakes to the absolute max unless you practice it (ABS obviously). But even those cars can steer to the max or brake to the max. Trying to combine the two doesn’t work well. Actually doing it, correctly choosing brake or evade, then actually letting up the gas but not hitting the brake if you choose evasion, in an actual emergency, is more difficult obviously.

It certainly depends on the situation. I try to always have a map in my head of vehicles and their positions, but I admit, it’s not always perfect. All the times I’ve had somebody steer into my lane, I’ve been slow about reacting to the horn, because I’m trying to negotiate the situation with both hands on the wheel. I can only think of maybe one or two instances where I’ve managed to be quick enough to react on the horn–I’m normally in crash avoidance mode, which generally does mean “swerve.” In almost all the instances I can think of, I’m the car in the leftmost or rightmost lane on a highway, and there is a shoulder as an exit. This is why I don’t like riding the middle lanes. I gently try to glide into that shoulder while slowing down and checking my back mirror. Also, in every instance that I can remember, the driver of the other vehicle does notice me and jerks back into their lane. I would say this has happened to me several dozen times.

So far, I’ve been lucky. There was one instance a few weeks where I did have to completely pull into the shoulder; usually, I only need to go a third of the way in before the situation resolves itself. I was actually in the rightmost lane, somebody from the left somehow didn’t see me (I think they were coming in from a couple lanes away) and tried to pull into my lane, I hit the brakes and gently tracked to the right, but then saw the car coming up fast on my rearview mirror (first thing I do when I need to hit the brakes to react to a situation is check the rearview mirror to see if person behind me is tracking the situation, as well) and reacting slowly, such that I had to completely get into the shoulder and actually speed up a bit (in case the car behind me suddenly figured out what to do and decided to swerve right themselves) to avoid getting hit by either of them. I always find it fascinating how quickly the human brain can make these sorts of calculations and consider these scenarios in the span of like a second or two, when one is paying attention.

You can be legally right and still be dead. I’d rather take my chances moving out of the way.