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failure to yield to emergency vehicle


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#1 marelra

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Posted 18 September 2010 - 05:28 AM

Is there an overarching principle in the Arizona Traffic laws that allow for the reasonableness of a driver's action as a defense to the technical violation of a traffic law, e.g., if a driver is going in excess of the posted speed limit, but can show that the excessive speed was reasonable under the circumstances, is this an available defense?

#2 LegalwriterOne

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Posted 19 September 2010 - 03:59 AM

What does speeding have to do with failing to yield to an emergency vehicle?  The only defense when you were exceeding the posted limit is if there was an emergency like getting your friend who'd been shot to the hospital and the speeding was necessary to get him there as fast as possible.  a


#3 marelra

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 01:19 PM

I mistated my question. I was not speeding. I had a green light. A police car responding to an emergency went through a red light and broadsided me. The police car had its sirens on and lights flashing, but I did not hear or see the warning. My passenger also neither heard nor saw the emergency warning indicators. The applicable police procedures require an emergency vehicle to come to a complete stop if they are proceeding through a red light. The driver of the police car did not come to a stop, although she claims to have slowed down to 25 mph. I was sited for "failure to yield to an emergency vehicle." If I acted reasonable, e.g., I wasn't on my cell phone, and if I can show that it was reasonable that I might not have known of the emergency situation, and if I had a green light and was travelling at or below the posted speed limit, can I argue that I should not have received a ticket.


This is not a negligence case. It's only traffic court. What I'm afraid will happen is that the judge will say it's irrelevant whether or not the police officer was negligent. So I don't intend to argue that point. It's uncontested that I failed to yield and it's uncontested that the police officer had her emergency lights and sirens activated. Is there something implicit in the traffic law that requires me to have actual or constructive knowledge of the emergency situation for there to be a violation of the law.? If I acted reasonable under the circumstances and did not violate any other traffic laws, is this a valid defense?


Thank you.  Ray



#4 GuessAgain

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 01:39 PM

You're not going to win the "i acted reasonably" argument when you admit you didn't hear the siren or see the flashing lights.   Emergency sirens run at around 118-123 decibels while your average lawn mower runs at 92 and a car with no radio on is at about 50.  If you didn't hear 118-123 db's of siren, you seriously weren't paying attention OR you're deaf or your radio was too loud.  With regard to the lights, even in the worst atmospheric conditions, they are designed to be seen by at least 500 feet ahead. 


#5 marelra

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 03:00 AM

One of the big selling points for new cars is that when the windows are up they are virtually soundproof - you can't hear any road noise. My windows were up, the air conditioning was on, and the radio was on. There is no assertion that the radio was too loud or that I was not paying attention. In fact, the other passenger could/would testify to the contrary. Also, the evening of the accident/traffic violation was July 4th. The accident occurred #### 9:15 p.m., at a time when hotel and city firework displays were in progress. I was travelling in the direction of the firework displays on the horizon. My passenger and I had been commenting on how the firework display was immediately in our view. Also, I had an obstructed view of the intersection in question. The emergency vehicle was coming from my left. There is a large shopping center on that corner and a view of any traffic on my left does not become visible until shortly before the intersection. Witnesses who heard and saw the emergency warnings were either on rooftops watching the fireworks, or sitting at the light and had an unobstructed view of the emergency vehicle. Is there any way to plead this case to show that my not hearing or seeing the emergency vehicle was through no fault of my own? As you indicated before, there may be valid reasons for not yielding to an emergency vehicle. Why wouldn't the fact the driver was not made aware of the emergency situation be a valid defense when there is no fault on the part of the driver.


Also, am I correct in assuming that the probable negilgence on the part of the police office for failing to comply with police procedures for stopping at the red light, is irrelevant re the traffic violation?


 



#6 LegalwriterOne

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 03:20 AM

I sympathize but I don't see any valid argument.  When the emergency vehicle has its lights and siren on, all other drivers have the absolute duty to immediately yield.  No and's, if's, or but's.  Additionally, if you know you can't hear outside noises in your car, roll the window down a little ways.  You have the duty to be aware of such potential situations. 

#7 marelra

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 06:48 AM

Thanks for your insight. I'm sure you're correct, but I can't believe that one couldn't construct a scenario in which, through no fault on the part of the civiliian driver, he could not hear or see the emergency warnings. The police department procedures foresee instances when a civilian driver might fail to yield. That is why the procedures require emergency vehicles to come to a full stop at a red light. I can't believe the procedure is intended as a control only against skofflaws. There has to be some recognition that under certain circumstances, the warnings will not be noted for legitimate reasons, not merely ignored.

#8 KrysKrat

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 04:22 AM

If your loved one was near death and being rushed to the hospital in an
ambulance, or if your house was burning down and fire trucks were trying
to get there to put out the fire, would you want them to have to stop
at every red light just in case some genius couldn't be bothered to obey
the laws and yield to the emergency vehicle?  That added time could
mean the difference between saving a life/house or losing it.  That is
the reason that the laws state one MUST yield to emergency vehicles.

IMHO,
if a person's vision is so low that they cannot see or hear emergency
vehicles, then they shouldn't be on the road at all, because that would
mean they wouldn't be able to see or hear other vehicles, road signs,
warning signals, people walking across the street right in front of
them...

There may be plenty of reasons that people don't yield -
selfishness, lack of consideration, and not wanting to wait an extra
couple of seconds for the vehicle to get past them come to my mind - but
there are no valid excuses.


#9 marelra

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 08:55 AM

Note to "tigerfilly"


I didn't write the Tucson Police Department procedures that require emergency vehicles to come to a full stop at a red light and then proceed through the red light only when they are certain that there is no through traffic. This requirement applies to fire trucks, ambulances and any other emergency vehicles responding to a call. Similar policies are common in all major metropolitan police departments. Also, if a loved one required immediate medical attention, I'd be just as concerned about an ambulance arriving safely a few seconds later, than not arriving at all. You seem like a bit of a jerk. I was asking for advice not moral condemnation. There is nothing wrong with my hearing or vision. Ask some of your friends, if you have any, and I'm sure you'll find instances where they admit to not hearing or seeing an emergency vehicle. It happens frequently. That is why police departments wisely require extreme caution when going through a red light.


 



#10 Fallen

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 09:05 AM

I see nothing wrong with gathering evidence that your car must have been hit at X miles an hour if the officer is arguing (s)he slowed down to 25 (if she were going that slowly, why couldn't she see that you were in the middle of the intersection?), and I see no reason why you'd be expected to slam on the brakes in the middle of an intersection you were passing through even if you saw the lights out of the corner of your eye and heard the siren (unless that's one humongous freaking intersection though, again, you say you were broadsided).

I would also have no problem citing what emergency vehicles procedures/regulations are and that this officer did not stop or slow down enough to avoid any traffic in the intersection (not sure why she didn't see you traveling.

If the officer who hit you or some responding colleague cited you, I'd suspect it's because it was a simple tactic to avoid you suing the department for damages to you on the off-chance you were seriously injured (even if that wasn't evident at the time).

Not clear what the penalty involved here is or what will happen with your insurance premiums, but I'd be consulting with a local attorney who handles traffic law at the very least.


I'll echo PG's advisory "warning" with a twist: (Many) legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here might not fully identify or explain the ramifications of your particular problem. I do not give legal advice as such (and such is impermissible here at any rate). Comments are based on personal knowledge and experience and legal info gleaned over a quarter century, and every state has differing laws on and avenues to address most topics.  If you need legal advice, you need to consult (and pay) a professional so that you may have someone to hold accountable.  Acting on personal and informational advice from a stranger on the internet is a bad idea -- at least not without your own thorough due dilience/research and confirmation as it applies to your situation.  :)


#11 KrysKrat

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 11:04 AM

I'm not the one who digressed into name-calling because I'm not getting the answers I wanted to hear, now am I?  Or is that a defensive reaction because I hit the nail on the head?

It does not matter whether you had the green light or not.  If an emergency vehicle has its lights and sirens going, you are supposed to yield.  If you were able to see that your own light was green, and that the emergency vehicle's light was red, then you should have been able to see the lights of the emergency vehicle as well, regardless of whether you could hear the siren with your windows rolled up.  With respect to the excessive speed thing, there may be limited reasons why it could have been reasonable under the circumstances, but I would think that would be mostly if you were rushing someone to the hospital yourself or something of that nature. 




#12 FindLaw_Michelle

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 11:11 AM

Thank you all for your participation. FindLaw Answers is a forum for open and positive legal discourse.  Please remember to respect the opinions of other members as per our Community Guidelines. Discussion is encouraged as long it stays respectful.  - Moderator


#13 LegalwriterOne

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 05:41 PM

First, the AZ traffic code says if an emergency vehicle has it's lights and siren on, you have the duty to yield, period.  Second, you admit you didn't see the vehicle so you can't say you didn't yield because you assumed they would stop at the red light.  Lastly, any failure to follow department procedure doesn't make the driver of the emergency vehicle negligent.  They had the right of way and you had the responsibility to yield. 

#14 Fallen

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 08:57 AM

While a given failure to follow procedure doesn't automatically make the EV driver negligent (depends on extent -- the fact that police departments have been held liable for damage to others for failing to follow procedure belies that), if the EV driver didn't even bother slowing down to make sure his/her presence was noticed when approaching a red light, that's wreckless in the extreme. 

Can't know whether EV driver's assertion that she was "only" going 25 mph is true or whether even if true that was a reasonable speed through a red-lighted intersection, given the blind spots poster notes.  Poster says (s)he was broadsided, which seems to indicate that the EV driver was going too fast or not paying attention to the fact that one or more cars was transitioning through the intersection.  Now if it turns out poster was blowing through an intersection at double or triple the speed limit and the EV driver had no reasonable chance to notice that car was coming into the intersection and thought it was clear (despite the blind spots), that's a different matter.  Court could attribute blame X% to one party and Y% another.


 


I'll echo PG's advisory "warning" with a twist: (Many) legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here might not fully identify or explain the ramifications of your particular problem. I do not give legal advice as such (and such is impermissible here at any rate). Comments are based on personal knowledge and experience and legal info gleaned over a quarter century, and every state has differing laws on and avenues to address most topics.  If you need legal advice, you need to consult (and pay) a professional so that you may have someone to hold accountable.  Acting on personal and informational advice from a stranger on the internet is a bad idea -- at least not without your own thorough due dilience/research and confirmation as it applies to your situation.  :)





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