Unsafe Lane Change – VTL 1128(a)

By: Adam H. Rosenblum Esq. | Last Updated:

Last Updated: 5/6/19 | Reviewed By: Adam H. Rosenblum Esq.

NYS VTL 1128 covers rules regarding changing lanes. VTL 1128(a), Moved from Lane Unsafely, makes it a violation to change lanes unless the driver is able to do so safely. VTL 1128(b), Driving in Center Lane, establishes that passing other vehicles or making a left turn from a center lane can only be done if executed in a safe manner. VTL 1128(c), Failed to Use Designated lane, and 1128(d), Drove Across Hazard Markings, states that motorists must obey signs and hazardous road markings and not cross these special lane markings. An unsafe lane change generally refers to the first subsection, Moved from Lane Unsafely.

Penalties for Unsafe Lane Change in New York

Fine: A ticket for violating any of the four subsections of VTL 1128 costs up to $150 for a first offense. The fine increases to $300 for a second offense within 18 months of the first and $450 for a third offense within 18 months.

Points: A conviction for an unsafe lane change in New York will result in 3 points on one’s license. The same point value is assigned to other subsections of section 1128.

Surcharge: Drivers convicted of an unsafe lane change will also be required to pay a mandatory state surcharge of $88 or $93. This is in addition to the fine.

Driver Reasonability Assessment (DRA) fee: Drivers who reach 6 or more points on their license within 18 months can be required to pay an additional fine known as the Driver Responsibility Assessment fee (DRA). This penalty costs $300 and increases by $75 for each point over six. This fee is paid to DMV and is in addition to the surcharge and fines for the ticket.

Auto insurance increase: Every insurance carrier is different, but nearly all will increase a driver’s premiums upon conviction of a traffic ticket. According to one study, a ticket for an unsafe lane change can result in a rate increase of up to 20%.

Move Over Law and Unsafe Lane Change

New York’s unsafe lane change law has taken on increased significance with the expanded “Move Over” law now in effect. The Ambrose-Searles Move Over Act requires drivers to exercise due care to avoid colliding with an authorized emergency, construction or other safety vehicle which is parked, stopped or standing on the shoulder of a road or highway with its emergency lights activated. VTL 1144-a(a) requires motorists to change lanes in a multi-lane highway in order to make a safe distance for safety vehicles. The Move Over Law is also a 3-point violation.

In light of New York’s unsafe change law and the Move Over law, drivers need to take special care before and during lane changes.

How to Avoid Getting a Ticket for Unsafe Lane Change in NY

The best way to avoid being issued a ticket for violating NY unsafe lane change law is to:

  • Look to make sure that there is enough space to change lanes.
  • Signal.
  • Look in all mirrors to make sure the lanes are clear.
  • Check your blind spot.
  • Move slowly to the next lane.

Careful adherence to these procedures will help avoid accidents and tickets which carry points and fines.

How to Beat an Unsafe Lane Change Ticket in NY

Drivers who are unfortunate enough to receive a ticket for unsafe lane change (VTL 1128a) should contact a New York traffic ticket attorney immediately. It is very likely that the ticket can be challenged to reduce or eliminate the points and increased auto insurance premiums.

There are two main tactics that a person can employ to defend against a charge of unsafe lane change. One is to provide empirical evidence that the driver did all he/she could to move over safely, such as checking mirrors, signaling, and moving over slowly. This can be done through the use of a dash cam footage, provided the driver had one in use at the time of the traffic stop. With such evidence, it will be the word of the driver against the word of the officer; in such cases, the officer almost always wins.

The second approach is to plea bargain with the prosecutor to reduce the ticket to a lower-point or no-point violation, such as a parking ticket. This is best done under the guidance of an experienced attorney, who will know how to present the case in a way that is agreeable to the prosecutor and judge.

Data on Unsafe Lane Change Tickets in New York

New York’s unsafe lane change law sounds obvious but unsafe lane changes are a primary cause of road accidents. Even a careful driver who checked his/her side and rear-view mirrors and begins moving into another lane can cause an accident because he/she failed to see another vehicle. According to 2018 DMV data, 57,468 accidents were reported in which unsafe lane changes were a contributing factor. This makes it the fourth-most common cause of automotive collisions, after failing to yield. It is also the fourth-most common cause of crashes involving fatalities; police reported more than 128 fatal accidents in 2018 in which unsafe lane changes were a factor.

Drivers received 68,653 tickets for unsafe lane changes in New York State in 2018. Nassau County received the most, with 16,434 VTL 1228 tickets—almost three times as many as the next highest county, neighboring Suffolk, which wrote 5,658. Drivers in Westchester received the third most unsafe lane change tickets, with 4,596.

Common Questions About Unsafe Lane Change Tickets (VTL 1128a) in New York

  • What is considered an unsafe lane change?

    Under VTL 1128(a), an unsafe lane change is when a driver moves from his/her existing lane on a roadway into another lane without signaling and/or checking to ensure that it is safe to do so. The failure to signal can be considered unsafe because other cars in the lane being entered may not have adequate warning of the move, which could result in a collision.

  • Do you have to look over your shoulder when changing lanes?

    Yes. A driver should always check his/her blind spot before signaling and again just before beginning to enter the new lane.

  • Is failing to use signals when changing lanes the same as unsafe lane change?

    No. Technically, failing to signal is a separate violation under VTL 1163(a). The difference is that 1163(a) does not specify that the driver’s actions put others at risk. An officer might choose to issue 1163(a) if the lane was empty and the driver moved over slowly but simply neglected to use the blinker. By comparison, a driver who does not signal and also moves over quickly on heavily trafficked roads is more likely to be ticketed for VTL 1128(a).


Whether you are facing a ticket for violating NY unsafe lane change law or another New York traffic ticket, it is recommended to contact an aggressive traffic lawyer. Email or call the Rosenblum Law at 888-883-5529 for a free consultation today.