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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    3

    Default Defenses to "Failure to Stop Within Assured Clear Distance"

    My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: Michigan

    I was involved in a 4-car collision. Right before the accident, the SUV in front of my vehicle was doing "braking, no braking and braking". I braked all I could but I still rear ended the SUV. But I heard a smack noise and the SUV was stopped right before my vehicle hit the SUV. The driver of the SUV claimed my sub-compact vehicle pushed his full-size SUV into the back of a pick-up truck in front and that truck pushed into another SUV in the front. All four cars were connected after the accident. No one was injured and all three cars in front had very minor scratches on their bumpers but my car was towed. The first two cars said they were on a heavy stop and go traffic on a highway and were on a completed stop before the accident.

    I had about 3-5 cars distance from the SUV a few seconds before the accident. The distance maybe shorter right before the accident because the SUV was doing the "braking, no braking and braking" thing.

    I had no where to avoid the SUV besides braking because the accident happened in the center line of a 3 line highway. The speed limit was 70 MPH.

    I do not believe my vehicle could push a full-size SUV and a pick up truck into the first car when I was slowing down to less 20 MPH. The hood of my vehicle was stuck under the bumper of the SUV. I think the SUV has already hit the pickup truck and push it into the car in the front before I hit the back of the SUV. That's why I heard the smack noise right before my car rear-ended it. I think the driver in the SUV was indecisive and not sure what he's going to do. That's why he was doing the braking and no braking thing. The driver was close to 80 years old, according to the crash report.

    I was the only driver that got a ticket for "Failure to stop within assured clear distance".

    I went to an informal hearing but the magistrate said regardless of the cause of the first two cars, I was responsible because I rear-ended the 3rd car. However, I got a ticket because I was the last car that came in. If the 3rd car could brake 'probably', I would be able to react faster and I would not hit the SUV. And it may only become a 3 car collision or no accident if the 3rd car would brake all the way.

    There are a few errors on the crash report regarding which vehicle is which vehicle. The officer said the SUV that I rear-ended was towed. However, the SUV was not towed after the accident and the crash report also listed the vehicle was not towed.

    I would like to know if I have a case for the judge to dismiss my ticket if I choose to appeal again. I have a clean driving record.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    9,654

    Default Re: Do I Have a Case for "Failure to Stop Within Assured Clear Distance"

    I'm not sure what you mean by "braking-no braking" but it sounds like he was mimicking the car in front of him based on the fact he ended up close to that car before you slammed into him. The fact that he was driving with inconsistent braking should have clued you in to leave MORE space. You should be prepared that he may have had to stop and you should be far enough behind or slow enough to avoid hitting him when he did.

    It will be hard to argue you didn't drive him into the car ahead of him. He may have not been on the brakes when you slammed into him. Your insurance company will argue the liability for the first car if they feel it is justified.

    I don't see anything exculpatory that will get you out of the ticket. You weren't providing enough clear distance to avoid slamming into traffic that stopped ahead of you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Do I Have a Case for "Failure to Stop Within Assured Clear Distance"

    For "Braking-no braking-braking", it's what I saw from his brake light when we were both coming to the heavy traffic from 60-70 MPH. I did not see the upcoming traffic. I am not sure if he did either. We were not in the stop-and-go at that time. He did that just second before the accident. I think I had a clear distance before he did the inconsistent braking thing.

    Thank you for your thought.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Behind a Desk
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    74,036

    Default Re: Do I Have a Case for "Failure to Stop Within Assured Clear Distance"

    The issue is that you weren't able to stop your car within the assured clear distance ahead. You are supposed to follow at a speed and distance that allows you to stop without hitting the car in front of you - that's the "assured clear distance". If the third car could stop without hitting the second car, the court is going to view that as strong evidence against the "sudden emergency" defense - that is, if they can stop, the court will assume that you could have as well, had you kept a proper distance.

    If the driver of car #2 felt only one collision, odds are you were responsible for that single collision. People generally know if their car is hit once or twice, and they would have felt you strike the rear of the third vehicle if it was already in contact with their car.
    Quote Quoting MCL 257.627(1). Speed limitations.
    (1) A person operating a vehicle on a highway shall operate that vehicle at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition then existing. A person shall not operate a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than that which will permit a stop within the assured, clear distance ahead.
    Who were the witnesses at the informal hearing? You, the officer, anybody else? Did the officer testify about statements you made at the accident scene? If not, and there were no other witnesses, you likely triggered your conviction with your own testimony. A formal hearing is, in essence, a do-over - it would give you the chance to try to work out a deal with the prosecutor, and another shot at the possibility that the officer won't appear to testify.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Do I Have a Case for "Failure to Stop Within Assured Clear Distance"

    Thank you for your info.
    In the crash report, car#1 and #2 said they were hit when they were stopped. They did not say if they were hit once or twice. Although car #3 said he was close to a stop before the accident, I saw his car was at a completed stop before I hit it.

    No one else was at the informal hearing besides me and the officer. Who will be the prosecutor if I request a formal hearing? Is it still true that if the officer does not appear to testify, I could ask to dismiss the ticket?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Behind a Desk
    Posts
    74,036

    Default Re: Do I Have a Case for "Failure to Stop Within Assured Clear Distance"

    The prosecutor will depend on the jurisdiction that issued the ticket - it could be a city or township attorney or a member of the county prosecutor's office.

    I thought the possibility of dismissal due to nonappearance of the officer was implicit in my statement that a trial de novo would give you "another shot at the possibility that the officer won't appear to testify". Yes, if the officer does not appear you can ask for a dismissal.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    27,191

    Default Re: Do I Have a Case for "Failure to Stop Within Assured Clear Distance"

    it doesn't make any difference if you pushed the truck in front of you into another car and down the line in like fashion. The act of hitting the truck is all that is needed for the ticket.

    as to liability: the only difference is $500 compared to $1500, at most. While $1000 isn't something to sneeze at, it is not all that much.

    just to be sure: you did have insurance on your vehicle, right?

    I think I had a clear distance before he did the inconsistent braking thing.
    that is irrelevant. What matters is what the distance was immediately before hitting the truck and apparently there was not enough room to stop without hitting him.

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