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Unsafe Lane Change in NJ - 39:4-88

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Written By 
Last updated 
May 13, 2024
A car changing lanes

Most drivers will eventually have to deal with some type of traffic ticket. Although traffic tickets may seem like minor annoyances that you may not have much control over, this is actually not the case. Every driver has the right to contest a ticket for a traffic violation. One of the more commonly ticketed traffic violations in New Jersey is for an unsafe lane change. 

The legal implications of a traffic ticket can be considerable. The traffic violation will go on your driving record, and if you have too many traffic violations, it can result in additional charges. It also can lead to higher insurance premiums, and in some cases even a suspended license.

If you get a ticket for an unsafe lane change in New Jersey, call a Rosenblum Law traffic attorney right away for a free consultation. We can help get the penalty reduced or the charges dismissed.

Understanding New Jersey Traffic Laws Pertaining to Lane Changes

The NJ statute that defines the proper way to navigate clearly marked lanes on the road is NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-88 (2023). In order to legally navigate lanes, a driver must adhere to the following rules:

  • Stay in the right lane: A driver must remain in the lane furthest to the right whenever this lane is available. However, the other lanes may be used when overtaking another vehicle or in preparation for making a left turn. 
  • Stay in a single lane: A driver must stay in a single lane for as much as it is practical. The driver should only move from the single lane when they are sure it is safe to do so.
  • Do not drive in the center lane: Normally, a driver must avoid driving in the center lane unless passing another vehicle or in preparation for a left turn. However, one may drive in the center lane if posted signs allocate the center lane for traffic moving in the same direction as the vehicle.

A violation of any of these rules could be considered an unsafe lane change.

Consequences of Unsafe Lane Changes

Being convicted of an unsafe lane change in New Jersey can have considerable consequences. Drivers convicted of this type of traffic violation will be fined anywhere between $100 and $300, and will also have to pay a surcharge of $50.

Along with a monetary penalty, someone can end up with points on their driving record. New Jersey allocates points to one’s driving record for each traffic violation. The number of points depends on the specific violation, in accordance with the New Jersey Points Schedule. An unsafe lane change violation will add two points to a motorist’s driving record.   

The more points on one’s driving record, the more serious the penalties. After receiving six or more points over a three year period, a driver will incur a surcharge of $150, plus $25 for each additional point. A driver who receives 12 points or more during this time period will have their license suspended. Points on one’s driving record also could result in increased insurance premiums.

If an accident happens during an alleged unsafe lane change, the stakes become considerably higher. Being convicted of an unsafe lane change can significantly work against a defendant being sued for damages resulting from the accident. Sosing a car collision lawsuit can result in significant liability. If a criminal case results from an auto accident, one can even face jail time. 

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Factors Contributing to Unsafe Lane Changes

Drivers should be aware of the various factors that can contribute to unsafe lane changes and lead to a traffic ticket. 

One of the most common factors contributing to traffic violations of all kinds is distracted driving. Drivers should not be talking on the phone or sending text messages while behind the wheel. 

Failing to signal or check blind spots also can result in an unsafe lane change.

Most importantly, being impaired by alcohol or drugs is dangerous and greatly increases the chance of an unsafe lane change or other traffic violation, as well as the chance of an accident.  

Legal Defenses Against Accusations of Unsafe Lane Changes

There are a variety of legal defense strategies that could be available to drivers charged with an unsafe lane change. One strategy is to challenge the evidence presented by law enforcement. For example, one could argue that the arresting officer was not in a position to clearly see the defendant make the alleged unsafe lane change.

One could also argue that the lane change in question was necessary due to some type of emergency or other extenuating circumstance. Additionally, a motorist could try to demonstrate that he or she was in fact complying with traffic rules despite the arresting officer’s assertions to the contrary. 

Any of these legal defense strategies requires supporting evidence that will need to be presented in court. That’s where a good traffic attorney comes in.

How An Attorney Can Assist Someone Accused of Unsafe Lane Changes in New Jersey

Successfully fighting a traffic ticket in court is not easy. Thus, it is a good idea to consult with a competent attorney who is experienced in traffic violation cases. The lawyer will be able to evaluate the circumstances of the case and explain potential consequences during the initial consultation, which at Rosenblum Law is free.

Once hired, the attorney can represent the defendant and provide guidance throughout the court process. This will include gathering evidence and witness testimony to be submitted in accordance with court rules. The attorney can develop a legal defense strategy based upon the facts of the case, which could include presenting mitigating factors that may reduce any potential penalty.

In addition, an attorney might be able to help a client avoid trial by negotiating with prosecutors for reduced charges or penalties. If a deal cannot be reached, the attorney can represent the accused in court proceedings.


What constitutes an unsafe lane change under New Jersey law?

An unsafe lane change under New Jersey law is any maneuver or action that violates NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-88 (2023). In general, this means failure to stay in the right lane, failure to stay in a single lane, and driving in the center lane. Exceptions to these rules may apply, such as when passing another vehicle or preparing for a left turn.

What are the potential penalties for an unsafe lane change?

A driver may incur monetary fines and surcharges as a result of an unsafe lane change. These may total anywhere between $100 to $300 in fines, along with an additional $50 surcharge. The motorist will also have two points added to his or her driving record.

How can I defend myself against accusations of an unsafe lane change?

You will need to present evidence and testimony in support of your legal defense. This can help in negotiating a deal with prosecutors or defending yourself in a court of law.

Do I need a lawyer if I’m accused of an unsafe lane change?

Although not required, an experienced attorney can help guide you through the court process, present evidence on your behalf, and negotiate with the prosecutor to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

Will my insurance rates increase if I’m found guilty of an unsafe lane change?

It depends on your insurance policy. However, having an unsafe lane change violation does increase the chance of your higher insurance premiums.

Are there alternatives to fines or penalties for unsafe lane changes?

One alternative to fines or penalties would be to contest the unsafe lane change charge with the help of an experienced attorney.

How long does it take to resolve a case involving an unsafe lane change accusation?

It depends on what trial date the court assigns you after pleading not guilty to the accusation.

Call a Rosenblum Traffic Attorney today

If you receive an unsafe lane change ticket, call a Rosenblum Law traffic ticket attorney for a free consultation. A Rosenblum Law traffic attorney will examine your situation and determine how best to fight the charge. For example, you might be able to challenge the evidence or argue that there were mitigating circumstances. A Rosenblum Law traffic attorney also can negotiate for reduced fines and/or no points on your driving record.

Whatever you do, don’t try to contest the ticket yourself. Our experienced attorneys are standing by to help.

Author Bio

Adam H. Rosenblum

Founding Attorney Of Rosenblum Law

Adam H. Rosenblum is an experienced and skilled traffic violations and criminal defense attorney. Mr. Rosenblum provides expert and aggressive representation to those facing points on their drivers’ licenses and the associated fines and surcharges.

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