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ticket for following too close

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#1 clodgyhoppen


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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:37 PM

I live in Washington State and was in a car accident two days ago.  I was traveling east at approximately 25 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour speed limit area. I noticed, to my right, approximately 100 kids and several adult chaperones walking down the sidewalk.  I glanced at the long line of kids, glanced back to the road, and saw nothing but the back of a GMC truck/suv in front of me.  I screamed, had no time to react by slamming on my brakes or turning the wheel, and rear-ended the GMC at full force.  The GMC was stopped in the road, waiting for the last in the line of kids to cross a crosswalk to turn right onto a side street.  I have no idea if his blinker was on or not.

I was ticketed for following too close...rcw 46.61.145.  It is the opinion of another person's post I read on another accident related forum that 'you can't follow something that's not moving' and that there's a chance I could contest it in court.  The court where I have to mail my ticket does 'hearings by mail', included contested hearings, where I can explain/dispute the situation in writing.

Anyone have any idea what my chances are? Both myself and the other party who owns the GMC are fully insured....99% of the damage was to the front end of my vehicle.  The other party's vehicle literally had a couple of small dings/dents and that's all.  That doesn't excuse my distraction by the throng of children on the side of the road, but because the other party's vehicle was stopped in the road waiting to negotiate a right turn, does the 'following too closely' rule really apply here?



#2 pg1067


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Posted 30 March 2012 - 01:44 PM

There's a 100% chance that you can contest the ticket, but that doesn't mean you'll win.

As odd as it sounds, I don't disagree with the person on the other forum (particularly in light of the language of the statute:  http://apps.leg.wa.g...?cite=46.61.145).  That said, there's no question that you violated at least one traffic law, and the charge could be easily amended, and you run the risk of ticking off a judge who may view your argument as an effort to pull a fast one on the court.  Accordingly, this might be a situation in which you're better off simply taking your lump and moving on and dealing with the bigger issue (i.e., getting your car repaired and the effect this will have on your insurance rates).

#3 Insons_Insontis



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Posted 30 March 2012 - 01:47 PM

The first question that comes to mind is "how do you know the vehicle wasn't moving while you were looking away?"  Is it possible that the vehicle was coming to a stop while you were looking away and then by the time you hit it, it had come to a complete stop?.

Since you were looking away, it's difficult to imagine that you're a good witness to the scene before the accident occurred.

Glad nobody was hurt, especially a child.  Personally, I'd pay the ticket and count my blessings.

Wait for others to chime in, I'm just a voice in the crowd.  You're likely to get more information from the others who can site statutes and laws on these matters.

#4 RetCopPrlgl


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Posted 31 March 2012 - 01:09 AM

This part of the code trips you up on your claim that you can't "follow" a vehicle that is not moving:

"..........having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway."

Having due regard for the speed of a vehicle includes vehicles that have "no speed", or alternatively, are stopped in a lane of traffic.  Speed is measured from 0 (zero).  There is no presumption that a vehicle ahead of you would NEVER stop in a traffic lane.  The spirit of the law is that a driver should maintain a sufficient distance behind another vehicle to avoid a collision in the event the other vehicle brakes or stops suddenly.

Furthermore, at some point, being an attentive driver, you had to have seen the SUV ahead of you in motion at some point, and knew or should have known that you were approaching an intersection.  Considering that, you also knew or should have known that a vehicle approaching an intersection may have to come to a stop due to "traffic upon and the condition of the highway".  (BTW, "traffic" includes pedestrian traffic.)

Of course, you can challenge the citation, but what would your assertions be ?  Would you assert that the vehicle you struck was parked ?  Or would you assert that you couldn't be following a vehicle that was stopped ?  If that's your assertion, then you'd have to be prepared to explain why you'd simply drive into something stationary, such as a vehicle, a traffic sign, a concrete barrier, a child ........

.......just sayin'.

I am not an attorney. My comments are made based on my training and experience as well as diligent research.  I am also not perfect, therefore, I will accept constructive criticism, if tendered with respect.

#5 Tax_Counsel


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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:03 PM

clodgyhoppen said...

It is the opinion of another person's post I read on another accident related forum that 'you can't follow something that's not moving' and that there's a chance I could contest it in court. 

You can make the contest, but I believe the contest would be a loser. The word "follow" has several meanings, and I think the one intended by the statute is "to go or come after a person or thing in place, time, or sequence." Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed. Nothing about that definition requires movement. It simply requires that you come after, i.e. are behind, the other vehicle. In light of the object of the statute and its wording, I think this is way the court is likely to apply the term, and the judge may not be amused by an attempt to avoid the consequences by trying to argue the vehicle ahead you must be moving for this statute to apply. In my view, it should be apparent that the statute is meant to ensure you keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you at all times, not just when moving. Since the definition of the word follow allows for that application of the statute, I think it's a very good bet you'd lose making the movement argument. But you are free to try. It is, after all, the judge's view and not mine that ultimately matters.

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