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Dutchess_III's avatar

Was the kid who was texting while driving 100% responsible for the wreck that happened?

Asked by Dutchess_III (25591 points ) December 17th, 2011

In this story a kid was texting when he ran into the back end of a semi that had slowed down for construction. Then a school bus rear ended him, and yet another school bus rear-ended the first. Horrible, horrible wreck. However, the news reports try to suggest that the whole thing was the kid’s fault….but I’d say the school bus drivers weren’t paying any more attention to the road than he was, and obviously following too close to each other and to the kid in the truck.

What do you guys think?

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36 Answers

HungryGuy's avatar

Well, I’m not a lawyer or a cop, but I learned that you are responsible for everything in front of you. Thus, I would think that the person who hits the person in front of him his responsible for his part of the accident. I.e, the kid is responsible for 25% of the damages to the semi, and 25% responsible for the damages to his car. The first school bus driver is responsible for 25% of the damages to the semi, 25% of the kid’s car, and 50% responsible for the damages to his bus. The second school bus driver is responsible for 12.5% of the damages to the semi, 12.5% of the damages to the kid’s car, 25% of first school bus, and 100% responsible for the damages to his bus.

Of course, since the kid was texting, maybe that should shift a little of everyone’s percentages to him.

But again, this is all just my opinion. I have no clue what the law says about this. I’m guessing the lawyers are gonna have lots of fun over this :-p

john65pennington's avatar

100% fault of the boydriiver texting and hit the school bus in the rearend.

I assume he was a minor, so the liability will come down to his parents’s auto insurance.

I hope they have a good policy.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

Yes
inb4“Teenagers are teh stupid!!! hurr durr”.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Hard to say. The linked article notes that many crashes have occurred in this particular spot. The first bus driver also says that she had changed lanes, putting her behind the pickup, because there was a vehicle parked on the shoulder. These circumstances may have played a part in the accident. A lot can happen in the blink of an eye at 70 mph, though, so I’m not sure we can say that it is obvious that the buses were following too closely.

By the way, I had to go to a different article to find any mention that the driver of the pickup was texting while driving.

@john65pennington The driver was 19, and he died in the crash.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@john65pennington No…the kid hit the semi first, then the bus hit the kid, then a second bus hit the first.

I’ve seen buses in caravans, and they always seem to follow nose to tail, WAY too close to each other, and the person behind can’t see the road ahead. Too many people only pay attention to the person in front of them, and don’t scan ahead. Too many people follow other cars too closely and can’t see the road ahead. Sounds to me like the kid wasn’t paying any attention to anything, but the first bus was only paying attention to the truck the kid was in, and since he didn’t slow down for the construction, the bus didn’t either. Ditto the 2nd bus…he was only paying attention to the first bus since he couldn’t see around it.

jerv's avatar

As much as I would like to say that the teen got what he deserved (I hate drivers who pay more attention to their phones than the road) I have to say that the buses share some of the blame.

It doesn’t matter what happens in front of you; you are supposed to be in control of your vehicle at all times, and that includes giving yourself time/room to react just in case the guy in front of you is either unlucky or more likely a moron. If you do not do that then you are driving recklessly and therefore share the blame. This could have very easily been a two-vehicle accident if the bus drivers deserved to have licenses.

@SavoirFaire 60 MPH is 88 Feet per Second, or about six car-lengths. Considering the average human requires nearly a quarter of a second to notice danger and up to half a second more to actually react on that realization, the average person will travel about five car lengths before they even do anything. That doesn’t even count the fact that buses brake worse than cars; they often require >200 feet to go 60–0 while most modern passenger cars can do the same in 160 or less.
Yes, a lot can happen in the blink of an eye at 70 MPH. Why do you think tailgating is illegal?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@jerv I don’t get the point of your response.

jerv's avatar

@SavoirFaire “A lot can happen in the blink of an eye at 70 mph, though”

Ever hear of “The Two-second Rule”? At 70 MPH, a car travels nearly 103 feet every second; if you are only fifty feet behind someone at that speed, you will barely have time (only half a second) to even put your foot on the brake pedal, and definitely no time to stop. At 20 feet, you will barely even have time to notice you are about to crash.

Combine that with the facts that buses require more room to slow down, they cannot swerve as well as a car, and that any competent driver knows that, the fact that either bus hit the vehicle in front of them is all the evidence I need to say they were following too closely.

Pandora's avatar

The bigger the object the harder it is to slow down in time. I was in a bus when a truck had rear ended us. Yes the truck was close but not all that close. All traffic on the narrow road was practically bumper to bumper. The bus driver saw the light was going to change and so he started to slow down. The truck didn’t have time to slow down. You could hear his breaks but it was still rolling for a while. I’ve also seen people squeeze in between large vehicles that are leaving space enough to break. They immediately put themselves in harms way.

jerv's avatar

Stopping distances; cars versus trucks

School buses are not as heavy as a fully-loaded 18-wheeler, but they are still considerably heavier than a car. Thus their braking distances are somewhere in the middle.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Okay, @jerv, but I don’t think I was denying any of what you said. That’s why I do not understand your response. All I said was that it is not obvious that the buses were following too closely. That we can provide some evidence in favor of that thesis does not make it obvious, and we don’t know everything that happened. Given that the first bus driver says that she was looking in her mirrors when the pickup hit the semi, it is possible that she was at a safe distance when the accident occurred, but lost a second’s worth of reaction time turning back from the mirror to the road.

jerv's avatar

@SavoirFaire It was obvious to me.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@jerv But should it have been?

Dutchess_III's avatar

If I was making the rules, there wouldn’t be any of this “1 car length for each 10 mph” business. I’d say, “If you are on a highway and don’t intend to pass, either because you’re a chicken or because it’s just not feasible, then stay at least 1/8th of a mile behind the vehicle in front of you.”

I don’t get that mind set where people seem to have this need to catch up to the person in front of them and mindlessly sit there, 20 feet behind, staring at the bumper of the car in front of them.

@SavoirFaire Yes, I think it should have been. If the bus driver didn’t have time to check her rear view mirror and look back at the road, the driver was following too closely and/or not paying any attention to what was happening on down the road. The semi slowed down for construction. It looks like no one else did.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Dutchess_III Maybe no one else could see the construction. I’m just trying not to draw conclusions that aren’t warranted by the evidence I personally have available. I know people like to assign blame as soon as possible, but isn’t this question about exactly what the problem with doing that is (i.e., you might blame the wrong person)?

Dutchess_III's avatar

They always have plenty of warnings about construction ahead. How did the semi knew to slow down but those behind him didn’t? The number one cause of accidents is someone simply not paying attention.

IMO, the bus drivers are responsible for their part of the accident, not just the kid who died in the wreck.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Dutchess_III The semi was in front, that’s why its driver might have known more than those behind it. Note, however, that I’m not saying it isn’t anyone else’s false. All I’ve said is that the information available from the article to which you linked doesn’t make any single scenario the obviously correct interpretation. You must have some sympathy to this view, since you disagree with what other people think is the obvious interpretation (i.e., that the driver of the pickup was entirely at fault).

Dutchess_III's avatar

I understand what you’re saying @SavoirFaire, but how can anyone rear end another driver unexpectedly? How could that happen if you’re following at a safe distance and can scan ahead of the cars / bus / truck in front of you and are paying attention? I can see it happening if, say, I was up behind a car on a two lane getting ready to pass and he slammed on his brakes, but I minimize that risk by planning my passing strategy ahead of time and getting out from behind him ASAP.

The only way it could have happened was because people were being careless and not paying attention.

I’m willing to listen to another possible scenario, if you have one, though.

jerv's avatar

The only times I’ve seen rear-ending when it was not due to inattention were excessive speed and/or poor road conditions. I did not see snow/ice there, and if there were then that adds another layer of blame to all involved.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Dutchess_III I worry that we’re getting into a place where “at a safe distance” will be defined as “far enough away that you cannot possibly rear-end someone” (making the conversation trivial). Those of us who are very cautious drivers can scoff at those who are not, but it’s hard for me to completely blame them. I was taught a “three second rule” by my father: a safe following distance is one that would take three seconds to cover. My driver’s education class, on the other hand, told me to gauge a safe driving distance in terms of car lengths. Worse yet, we were told “three car lengths” as a static rule (whereas the three second rule changes the safe distance depending on speed).

Is everyone else to blame for not having my father (or whoever taught you to drive)? I don’t think so. If someone in my driver’s education class had gotten into an accident while driving at what they were taught was a safe distance, my knowledge that it was not actually a safe driving distance seems a bit irrelevant. Most people are taught to drive in a way that prevents accidents from occurring, not in a way that is also safe after an accident has occurred. If this is also true of the bus driver, she may have been driving at what would have been a safe distance had the pickup not hit the semi, but not at a safe distance once the first accident had occurred.

That is to say, she may have had plenty of time to look into her mirrors and then back at the road without hitting someone under normal traffic conditions even if looking in the mirrors cost her precious time for responding to an accident scenario. We were taught to drive more defensively, and good for us. But I can see how someone might reasonably think they are at a safe distance when you or I would think otherwise. We also don’t know what happened when the pickup and the semi collided. Did one spin? Did the pickup ricochet backwards at all? I don’t know, but it seems like it could be relevant. That’s why I noted that a lot can happen in the blink of an eye.

jerv's avatar

@SavoirFaire I was taught “Far enough away to be able to avoid trouble one way or another, no matter what”. Considering that most of the vehicles I have owned are agile and thus can change lanes easily, I can usually get away with things that a school bus can only dream of despite having comparable acceleration and braking (0–60 in 14.8 seconds, 60–0 in 197 feet, compared to a normal, modern car that can do it in 9.5 seconds,160 feet). Bear in mind that I also learned to drive in New England; snow, ice, hurricanes, dirt roads, no guardrails next to lethally long drops… basically a lot worse than the average flatlander and/or urbanite will ever experience. Try doing 45 on an icy mountain road in a whiteout with four bald tires at 2AM after four days of no sleep. Been there, done that, arrived safely.

My rule is to figure the dumbest thing that the person in front of me can do,, the worst thing that could happen to my car, and plan on at least one of those actually happening. If you ever saw a flatlander (like the average Seattlite) drive in the wintertime, you would know how stupid the other people on the road can be at times. One hand holding the cellphone, the other gesticulating like they are having a face-to-face conversation, as they do 60MPH on ice… there are some stupid people out there.

That said, I also worry that we will eventually be “too safe”. I never wore a bicycle helmet as a kid, but it is now mandatory even for adults in many places. Nearly got a couple tickets for that one! What next, enforcing use of condoms when I jerk off? Many of the safety rules we have now are to allow for people who would otherwise be considered incompetent to do things like ride a bike, drive, or rub one out to do so.

Still, for the purposes of this discussion, I maintain that if the bus drivers deserved the special endorsement on their licenses that allowed them to carry passengers, they should have known the parameters/characteristics of their vehicles and driven accordingly. If I do something stupid, I probably won’t hurt too many people. If a school bus driver with a bus full of kids does something stupid… well, lets just say that they need to be more cautious than I do.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@jerv 100% agree with you. It’s all about common sense and thinking for yourself and NOT depending on the person in front of you to do the right thing. Always assume the person in front of you, or coming toward you, is drunk and be prepared accordingly. I’ve taught all of my kids, my kids friends, and one grandkid to drive. I’m currently teaching my husband how to drive, but he is being difficult! I tell them to throw any “car length” or “3 second rule” out the window. You’re liable to get into a wreck trying to figure out how many seconds or car lengths you are behind the car in front of you. I tell them to flat stay away from other drivers!! FAR away!

@SavoirFaire Here is another article with several pictures from different angles of the wreck. Man…it looks like the bus never even slowed down.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Dutchess_III Ah, that article is very helpful. Thanks! And I see that the bus drivers were, in fact, charged with careless driving.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Sorry…this article first came to my attention last week. It was attached to the proposed ban on ALL cellular use while driving (YAY! Go fer it!) I just googled it on the fly for this question and wound up with a completely different article, which I didn’t even read.

jerv's avatar

@Dutchess_III Banning all cellular use may also deprive many people of their GPS and/or sound system. And considering how many people used to be distracted by their radio, I see that as giving a bandaid to a heart attack victim; a weak effort that won’t do anything except possibly generate revenue for the state through tickets. It won’t stop people from using cellphones behind the wheel.

Then again, it’s real easy to go hands-free. In some places, it’s the law. Hell, your better phones (like a Droid-series or iPhone) are able to be controlled by voice and can even transcribe; you speak, it types! There really is no reason to touch your phone any more than you touch your turn signal lever.

The problem isn’t cellphones. It’s people. Even if you managed to wave a wand and make cellphones cease to exist, people will find some other distraction from driving safely and we will wind up where we are now except for there won’t be any cellphones.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@jerv Yes, it won’t make good drivers out of stupid ones but phone use while driving causes a LOT of accidents that would other wise be avoided.
Listening to the radio is NOT the same thing. You don’t interact with the radio and you don’t get intensely emotional or angry because of some song on the radio.
I don’t care for GPS but again, you aren’t interacting WITH it.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Dutchess_III Actually, changing the radio station or adjusting your GPS can be very distracting. A friend of mine in high school was killed because of a driver that ran a red light while changing her radio station. The girl changing her radio station lived. Distracted driving is distracted driving, whether it’s a phone, another passenger, the radio, or some other device causing the distraction.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Seaofclouds Yes, and those are examples of stupid drivers, but still, those things don’t count for NEAR the accident rate that cell phone use does.
Getting rid of that one thing would significantly cut down on the number of accidents every year.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Dutchess_III Actually, I’ve seen studies in the past that have stated that there are other forms of distracted driving that account for more accidents than cell phone usage. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at the statistics, so they might have changed, but back when I looked into it for one of my classes, looking at things outside of your vehicle, rubbernecking, passengers, and the messing with the radio where all above cell phone usage. As I said, that may be different now, but there have been studies done in the past about it.

I’m not saying that getting rid of cell phone use while driving wouldn’t have a substantial impact on the accidents caused by distracted driving, just that there are other forms of distracted driving that cause more accidents than cell phones.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Were they taking all of those things taken together? Thing is, we can’t stop rubber necking or passengers. We CAN stop cell phone usage.

If I were an insurance agent, I’d get a virtual reality simulator and put my customers into all sorts of surprise situations to see how well they were prepared for it, or if they even saw it coming.

jerv's avatar

@Dutchess_III Notice that the US has more accidents per capita than many places that have far fewer laws? For instance, why aren’t there more fatalities on the Autobahn? Our lower speed limits don’t make us safer.

Legislation isn’t the answer.

As for your simulator, you should see what you have to do to get a license in Sweden or Japan! We Americans give licenses to just about anybody with a birth certificate and enough to pay the fee, but they actually require you to know how to drive. Whats more, the testing process of long and expensive enough that getting your license suspended/revoked hurts enough that most people won’t risk it. What we really need is for our driving licenses to be as hard to get as their’s.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree @jerv! Hell, they handed a drivers license to my mother three years after we’d taken the keys away because her dementia was getting increasingly worse, and she was becoming dangerous on the road. (My sister took her to get it…not exactly sure what her scheme was, except that she changed Mom’s Will on that same date, and Mom was still lucid enough to sign her name….)

jerv's avatar

@Dutchess_III Would she pass “The Moose Test”? I am pretty sure that if she had to do that part to regain her license, the will would’ve come into effect that same day too :D

Dutchess_III's avatar

What is the Moose Test?

jerv's avatar

@Dutchess_III Sweden has been doing it for decades. It is of how a vehicle reacts when it swerves suddenly to avoid, say, a moose.

Basically, the vehicle is fully loaded and put on a track with road cones set up to simulate an obstacle. The test involves swerving into the other lane and back again. If the vehicle hits a cone, spins out, or rolls over, test failed.

While even a great sports car like a Porsche cannot pass that test at much over ~50MPH, many drivers (the bus drivers in this accident, for instance) cannot pass that test at any speed because they really are not in control of their cars.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Mom woulda hit the moose and kept on going because she didn’t realize she’d hit it!

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