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Auto know: These excuses won’t work with police

Officers have heard these arguments before

Published April 2, 2013
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Drivers might think their crash excuse is clever and unique, but police have likely heard it all before. Here’s what some common driver excuses translate to under the law:

“It was an accident.” The word “accident” implies that it was unavoidable, couldn’t be anticipated and, hence, no one is to blame. This is rarely the case. Police view a “motor vehicle collision” as a caused occurrence resulting from one or more violations of the Highway Traffic Act — which occurs in virtually all crashes.

“The other car came out of nowhere” translates to “I failed to observe properly.”

“I couldn’t stop in time” means “I was following too closely” or “I was speeding.”

“I lost control” typically means “I was driving too fast for conditions or beyond my ability.” Likewise, “bad road conditions” implies “I failed to adjust my driving and following distance for the weather and road conditions.”

A “single vehicle rollover” doesn’t just happen on its own, as drivers will often claim. It typically results from impaired driving, falling asleep, or drifting onto the shoulder then overcorrecting — though few will admit to such actions after the fact.

When a vehicle is struck by a train at a level crossing, the driver most likely tried to outrun the train (disregarding the train horn, crossing lights and barrier) or began crossing tracks in heavy traffic without adequate road space ahead on the other side.

In any case, a train travels on a fixed track. Unless it derails, it can’t “come out of nowhere” and hit your vehicle unless you’ve placed yourself in its path.

“The other driver stopped for no reason” really means “I was following too closely” or “I wasn’t paying proper attention to traffic” and caused a rear-end collision.

The logic behind this excuse baffles me. By this reasoning, if stopping unnecessarily makes drivers at fault for being rear-ended, then being justified in stopping (to avoid hitting a child on the road, for example) should make the rear driver to blame, right?

Under the law, the driver in back is responsible for a rear-end collision as the driver in front has no control over what’s behind them.

There is an exception when one motorist cuts off another then immediately stomps the brake to induce a collision, as occurs in insurance fraud cases.

Another unusual exception would be if a large vehicle blocking your view of the road ahead suddenly makes a last second lane change and you then strike a disabled vehicle stopped in your live highway lane. Police may forego charges if this can be proven, but insurers will still hold the driver partially or wholly at fault.

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