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Drivers on outside lanes must use caution

When on a three-lane highway, and I'm in the right lane with another car even with me in the far left (center lane is open), who is at fault if both cars attempt to occupy the center lane at the same time? Does it depend on who is farther ahead?

— Greg S.

On a three-lane road, such as Riverside Avenue for example, if two cars in the outermost lanes both attempt to move into the open center lane and a crash occurs, then both parties are at fault. It wouldn't matter who was farther ahead.

ORS 811.375 defines the rule that would apply, and it is called an unlawful or unsignaled change of lane. It says that a driver commits the offense of unlawful or unsignaled change of lanes if the person is operating a vehicle upon a highway and the person changes lanes by moving to the right or left when either the movement cannot be made with reasonable safety or by failing to give an appropriate signal continuously during at least the last 100 feet traveled before changing lanes. Violation of this statute is a Class D traffic violation, bail $97. So, Greg, under your scenario both the driver in the right-most lane and the driver in the left-most lane have equal obligations to signal, and more importantly, make the lane change only with reasonable safety. Should they fail to do so, then each could be found at fault and cited, much like drivers at four-way stops that don't proceed only when safe to do so.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.