Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Is there ever an excuse for rear-ending another vehicle?

Asked by Dutchess_III (28315 points ) January 17th, 2014

Someone posted on fb that there was a 25 car pile-up in Waukee. I did some checking, looks like there is bad winter weather there. Are people just not taking that into consideration when they drive? How does that happen?

A few years back my husband and I were on an interstate outside of KC. Suddenly there was a very dense fog. You couldn’t see 50 feet in front of you. My husband didn’t even slow down. I was SO nervous. I said, “Aren’t you afraid of something suddenly looming up in the road ahead and you’re going too fast to stop…”
He said, “Nothing’s going to be in the road ahead!”
Not 30 seconds later there were flashing warning signs that had been set out, so everyone finally slowed down…and there was a 50 car pile up in the opposite lane across the median.

How do things like that even happen?

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57 Answers

livelaughlove21's avatar

The only valid excuse for rear-ending someone is if you were rear-ended and it caused you to ram into the person in front of you. Unless you were following too close, and then it’s still not a good excuse.

thorninmud's avatar

I came so close to rear-ending car a few days ago. Black ice at night, completely invisible. Approaching this car at a stop, I applied my brakes in what I thought was plenty of time, but my car just kept right on going, my ABS chattering away. I managed to swerve to the right just in time to miss him.

But I have to admit that I should have allowed for the possibility of something like that and begun braking sooner.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

When merging right onto a road from a stop with someone in front of you who decides to go and suddenly stops without warning just as you begin to go and check traffic behind you.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I got in a bad car accident when I was 19. I rear ended the other person. 100% not my fault. I was driving home from work in the left lane and there was a car ahead of me by a little less than a car length in the right lane. With no turn signal or any sort of warning the car in the right lane made a left turn. Needless to say I slammed into the back of this car.

The best part is that the car turned left because the gas station on the left side of the road was exactly 1 penny cheaper than on the right side of the road. Great reason for me to have permanent back damage -_ – .

Dutchess_III's avatar

My daughter was on a two lane highway once, coming up on the entrance to the toll road. Guy in front of her exited to go to the toll. She kind of glanced over at him as he exited, and when she looked back at the road in front there was some asshole STOPPED AND BACKING UP in her lane! This is in a 65 mph zone! She hit him.

JLeslie's avatar

The only time such a large pile up of cars makes sense is when the accident happens just over a hill, or when visibility is really really bad. Suddenly not being able to see what is only a few feet in front of you creates an impossible decision of slowing down when the guy behind you might continue at the same speed, or staying the same speed and hoping the person in front of you does the same. For instance once I was driving about 40 miles per hour in heavy traffic and suddenly I went through a huge “puddle” of water and it sprayed up all around the car and I could not see anything at all. I, the persin in frint’ and the person behind just kept driving and nothing happened. The puddle lasted maybe 4 seconds, but the natural instinct was to want to brake, because I could not see. Coming over a hill or from around a bend at high speeds, and there is something in the road or an accident already, there is no time to stop period. It’s almost nobody’s fault in that case. It can happen when driving well within the speed limit. When weather is bad ongoing. Heavy rain, snow, ice, etc., there really is no excuse for such a large pile up.

When it used to snow when we lived in NC and TN I used to always tell my husband to drive like he has no brakes. Slow the hell down and more space between the cars! Accidents happen, even the best drivers can have an accident, but too often people are not driving cautiously or not predicting what the cars around them are doing or need. I remember once I was driving on the interstate during some bad snow and ice at night. One lane was blocked and I had to merge over. Everyone was only driving about 35–40 miles per hour to begin with and then we slowed even more to merge. The right lane was letting in a car from the left every other car, everyone being curteous, until it was my turn and the driver did not obey the pattern and it caused me to brake. Luckily, I had enough space to stop in time, and I could release the brake a couplenof times, but she was an idiot, oblivious, and a hazard on the road.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Not paying any kind of attention, under estimating road conditions, and the lack of any kind of driving skill, and gadget distractions, those are the reasons I can think of, you know what gets me is you talk to any of these drivers and they will tell you that they are a super driver,take it from me who makes their living on the road they are not.

Dutchess_III's avatar

One time, on a 4 lane highway, in a rather congested mess, I started to pass a semi. I always flash my headlights when I get ready to pass a semi, and I did that time, but suddenly, without warning, he changed lanes to pass the car in front of him. Cut me off. It was strange, because semi drivers are usually among the best on the highway (right @SQUEEKY2? :) I thought “Uh oh. Bet he’s been driving for 48 hours or something, cause he ain’t thinkin’.” So I backed off, gave him a ton of room which meant dropping my cruise by about 1 mile an hour to let the pack get ahead of me and wait until it shook out. The car behind me HAD to have seen it, but apparently it didn’t really register and he got very impatient with the fact that I had changed my driving pattern, and slowed down. He got right on my butt, then slammed into the passing lane and flipped me off as he went by. I just grinned and sat back to watch the show. Sure as hell, when he went to pass the semi, the semi pulled out to pass again, without looking, and ran dumbass of onto the shoulder. Was fun to watch. Could have been bad, bad news, but it turned out OK.
About 5 miles down the road, it had cleared up. There weren’t any cars near him left for him to pass, but I passed that semi doing about 90 just to get out of his way!

CWOTUS's avatar

No, no excuse. And your husband should know better: the obstacle that should have been in the road in front of you was the vehicle whose driver prudently slowed to “no faster than he could see in time to stop”.

I had this discussion with a pilot friend of mine years ago. His attitude was the same as your husband’s: a pilot flying into a cloud or fog bank – which happens all the time – cannot slow or he will fall out of the sky when he stalls, in the first place. And if he’s in the sky with other planes flying similar course and speed, then as he slows he will certainly be hit by the plane behind him who is (prudently) maintaining course and speed as he gains (or loses) altitude to get back into clear air.

But cars aren’t airplanes. They follow defined paths on roadways, so there is very limited room to maneuver around obstacles. And they can stop without intrinsic risk of damage. That is, they won’t fail (as an airplane would) simply by stopping; stopping doesn’t cause a car to crash. For that reason, drivers slow and stop all the time, and sometimes in inconvenient places. Equipment failure, confusion about roadway markings, traffic congestion and wisely slowing to drive “for the conditions” all lead to slowed or stopped traffic. Accidents and other collisions with other vehicles, animals or pedestrians also cause traffic to slow or stop precipitously.

If you can’t see far enough in front of you to stop within range of your vision, then you’re driving too fast for whatever condition you’re driving through, whether that’s a wet or icy road, flooding on the roadway, reduced visibility, cresting a hill or rounding a sharp curve or any other likely or unlikely obstruction or condition.

No excuses.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Idiots trying to merge when there’s no room for their truck and trailer between you and the car in front of you.

NEWSFLASH – I don’t have to slam on my brakes because you wait untill the last second to get in the proper lane, it’s completely my choice. I can’t stand idiotic drivers.

gasman's avatar

In 1972 I was driving on a freeway in Orlando, Fla, traffic was moderate & moving at the speed limit of 60. A car entered from the on-ramp on the right going about 10 mph and then stopped in the right lane in front of me. I slammed on the brakes but collided with the car, and a few seconds later the car behind me rear-ended me. The state trooper who investigated the accident cited the driver in back of me for failure to stop, and the driver in front of me for “improper entry to a highway” or some such.

In other words, I was the middle of a 3-car accident and both of the other drivers got cited, but not me. My car was near-totaled, however, despite the fact that it was drivable. It was shortened by a foot or two! Nobody was seriously hurt.

Hard to say if that was RIGHT on the part of the trooper. In the same situation today I probably would have been able to swerve or stop sooner, but I was a young driver back then.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s why I always maintain a big space between me and the car in front of me, no matter if it’s in town or out @KNOWITALL. If I’m not going to pass on the highway, I’ll leave, literally 2 or more city blocks between me and the car in front. Forget this car lengths business!

@CWOTUS My husband, after 50 years of driving experience still doesn’t see to be able to anticipate what other drivers might do. It’s like a 16 year old who doesn’t believe anything bad can really happen to them. I don’t get it! It doesn’t help that he spent a gazillion years on the race track and tends to bring that onto the public roads with him. Not good.

The other day, on a twisting, winding two lane highway, we were gaining on this SUV. I’m watching him and he’s drifting all over his lane. I watched him hit the center lane no less than 3 times. They installed rumble strips on the center lane about 5 years ago which is probably what saved us all. He also ran off on the right side a couple of times before he corrected. My husband didn’t seem to notice at all. As we got closer I said, “This guy is a wreck waiting to happen and I hope we’re not on his ass when it does…..” He backed off then. But it is SO against his “nature” to “back off.” He’s always in a contest, but he’s getting better.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Dutchess_III Right, but if some Doofus was in lane #2 instead of lane #1 and it’s time to merge, why do they feel like they can run me off the road because they left it to the last minute? I don’t think I can leave enough room for all the idiots on I-44 and Hwy 65…hahaha!

Dutchess_III's avatar

I know….It’s like they miss the signs that their lane is ending, and at the very end they just blindly follow the white line on the right as it merges in. They don’t even KNOW they’re changing lanes, much less check to see if it’s clear. So it’s up to us halfway smart people to anticipate for them

CWOTUS's avatar

What you’re talking about now is not a “rear-ending” situation per se, but a “failure to yield” issue.

Most, if not all, highway entrance ramps have a “Yield” sign on the ramp, or it’s generally understood that merging vehicles must yield the right of way to the traffic that is already at speed on the roadway they’re attempting to merge onto.

One of the most basic rules of the road – any road – is that “overtaken vehicles”, that is, vehicles being passed, have the right of way over the passing vehicle. The passing vehicle in most road situations is expected to respect the right of way of the overtaken vehicle and only pass when safe to do so, in a manner that doesn’t impede or interfere with the passed vehicle, and leaving enough room for the overtaken vehicle to continue its travel without having to swerve, stop or otherwise take action to avoid a collision.

That’s the typical situation, but in a “merge” situation the rules change. That’s why merging vehicles are expected and required to “yield the right of way” that they might enjoy… if they were already on the roadway, which obviously they are not. It is generally understood that the merging vehicle is not yet traveling “at speed”, so for most purposes it is an “overtaken vehicle”. But since the driver of this vehicle is required to “yield right of way”, the onus is now on him to avoid the collision with other drivers. He can’t insert himself as a slower vehicle into a lane filled with faster vehicles and insufficient space for the others to react to him. So if a collision occurs here (assuming the vehicle that’s already on the roadway is exercising “normal” care and diligence, not excessively speeding, traveling with lights at night or in bad weather, etc.), then it’s more often than not going to be a “failure to yield right of way” situation, and the fault of the driver going too slowly (or making sudden lane changes) while merging.

This can also occur, for example, if a slower vehicle in an adjacent lane swerves suddenly into your lane immediately in front of you and you hit him. That’s not a typical “rear-end” situation, since there is almost no way for a reasonable driver – at any speed! – to avoid that sudden collision.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think it’s a failure to think issue.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@CWOTUS So what I got out of that is I’m right and the idiots trying to force themselves in are wrong. amiright?! lol

I get into the far left lane about two miles from the merge and these dorks are waiting until the merge is in process (two way merge btw, so even tougher.) What really irritates me is there are tons of wrecks and never any cops to teach these jerks a lesson. I’m thinking of complaining to MoDOT.

Seek's avatar

Apart from a sudden stroke or brain aneurysm, I can’t think of one.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

There are plenty of excuses, but no escape from liability. A person’s considered to have been negligent even if he/she had a stroke or aneurism; the circumstances are tragic, but the driver assumed culpability by getting behind the steering wheel.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

Sudden fog, as mentioned in the OP, or the phenomenon known as “black ice” are the only two legitimate excuses IMHO.

Many years back my father was involved in a chain event. He was approaching a line of cars at a traffic light, unaware that the six cars in the line were all sitting on a sheet of ice. As he attempted to slow down, his wheels hit the ice and lost all traction and control. He slo-o-owly slid into the last car in the line, making impact at about 3–5 mph. Not hard enough to do any damage, but just enough to cause a billiard-like chain reaction. He obviously heard his impact, then the car ahead of him hit the next one, and the next one, and eventually the first one, which was pushed out into the intersection. Fortunately, the light was changing at the time and nobody except the cars in the line were hit. My father was the only one who was given a citation.

jerv's avatar

This one is near and dear to me as it took me out of work for a month and totalled a car I loved.

Imagine that you’re going down the interstate on a clear day with dry pavement, sun shining, and otherwise beautiful out. You’re in the left lane and there is a guy in the center lane about 30–40 feet ahead of you, your own lane is clear for at least ¼-mile, and the two of you are going the same speed.

The guy in front of them does something stupid, they hit them, their ass end pops out, they go almost sideways, and you have 40 feet (less than half a second at highway speeds) to react decelerate from ~60 MPH to a dead stop (unless you want to sideswipe the guy in the carpool lane).

Despite being the third car in a five-car pile-up, I still got a ticket from the deal, and doubled my insurance rates along with chronic back pain that didn’t exist before.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@KNOWITALL Of course you’re right. You have the right of way. But just back way off so that when the fool DOES make his move, you aren’t in any danger at all.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@jerv That just seems so wrong to me, I don’t think YOU should be penalized at all. I mean it’s an interstate, geesh.

@Dutchess_III But that’s what I mean, they jump in front of me and slam on their brakes because there’s not room for them, it seriously happens almost every day and is the worst merge/ intersection here.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Jumping out in front” suggests you’re right there and they jump out in front of you at the last second. If you aren’t right there they can’t really jump out in front of you. I’m saying, is it possible for you to keep a wider gap between them and you?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Dutchess_III Nope, I’m already in line to merge, and when you merge, you know, it’s tricky to keep looking over your left shoulder and on your right to keep the idiots in sight. At this point the highway is four lanes with the far right merging to I-44 North and South (it splits).

So while my head is turned left and I’m merging with the 4th lane, idiots come flying in from laned 3&4 because they wanted to stay in the fast lane, then jump in front of all of us merging right, to basically ‘cut in line’. So I can’t really leave space in heavy traffic and merge, I mean I go slow and use my blinker, but it’s still really dangerous.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

There is no excuse! Maintain sufficient distance between you and vehicles ahead of you. Change lanes only when it is safe to do so. Pay attention continuously to your driving.

I live with life-long chronic pain because of a rear end crash. Its been nearly 10 years since then.

jerv's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence What about those beside you?

Kardamom's avatar

I’ve also seen people who clearly have road rage, go into another lane (presumably when they thought another driver had offended them in some way) pull in front of that “offending” vehicle and then slam on their own brakes. That happens all the time out here on the California freeways.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I always try to leave, at least, a gap about the size of two cars between me and the car in front. I do a lot of driving and every so often I will slip into auto pilot driving (you know the kind where you can’t remember the last 10 minutes) and find myself a little too close to the car in front. There’s no excuse for this but it happens and, as soon as I realise, I back off. I have also misjudged the conditions a few times and found my brakes don’t work as well as I had intended because of ice or surface water. I think drivers are very quick to judge other people’s driving but don’t often admit our own driving faults. Hi, my name’s Leanne and I accidentally cut someone up on a roundabout two days ago.

El_Cadejo's avatar

” Hi, my name’s Leanne and I accidentally cut someone up…” Sounds quite gruesome :P

Dutchess_III's avatar

Two car lengths is way to close, @Leanne1986.

jerv's avatar

Just an FYI; the average reaction time before you even start to move your feet is around a quarter second, and it generally takes another half a second to actually get your foot to the brake pedal. Sure, it’s less than a second total, but 60 MPH is 88 feet per second, or about 5½ car lengths every second.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Dutchess_III When I was ticketed for speeding about four years ago, I had to go to a safe driving course and we were told to always try to make sure that at least two cars could fit between you and the car in front on 30 or 40 mph roads. I’m sure it all depends on the road/driving conditions but that’s what I try to remember when checking my distance.

JLeslie's avatar

@Leanne1986 Are you saying previous to your ticket you had never been taught proper distance between cars?

OpryLeigh's avatar

@JLeslie I probably had but I don’t remember. At 17 I just wanted my licence so did what I had to do to pass and then forgot certain things. I actually really enjoyed that safe driving course, there was so much info that I had forgotten or can’t remember learning.

JLeslie's avatar

@Leanne1986 Got it. I took a course like that once, and I agree some of the refresher information was good. Some laws had changed that I was not aware of, not that it was anything significant.

By the way, most people are taught the two second rule for distance between cars, some say it should be 3 seconds. You find a fixed spot on the road like a tree or mile marker, when the car in front of you passes it you count one one thousand, two one thousand (I guess you could use mississippi also) and at that point your car should pass the fixed object. Oh, and I wish they would emphasize being able to see the rear tires of the stopped car in front of you. So many cars stop too close. On hills I can roll right back into them! No one leaves room for people driving an older clutch car and that they roll a little back.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, the two second rule was what they were talking about on my course. He said on a 30 or 40 mph road that would be about two cars length. I’m going to try that tomorrow when I drive to work! I was taught about being able to see the rear tyres when stopped. I remember that much from my original lessons!

jerv's avatar

Personally, I find it varies too much with weather and vehicle for things like the 2-second rule to make sense. In fact, I feel that people who need such guides have too poor a grasp of physics and cars to belong on the road.

The ideal distance is however far apart you need to be to be able to react and, if need be, stop. My car has a braking distance about 30% longer than most cars, so I need extra distance; the 2-second rule would kill me. And snow, ice, and rain add at least 50% to those distances. If you can’t see why, trade your keys for a bus pass before you kill someone.

CWOTUS's avatar

The better advice on following distance, @Leanne1986, is “at least two seconds’ worth of distance at your current speed”.

The easy way to calculate that is to spot a piece of roadway, shadow, line or crack on the pavement, a signpost or something else stationary that the other car has just cleared, and then count the familiar “one-Mississippi two-Mississippi” to see if there are two full seconds between the time they clear the mark and you touch it. If not, then you need to increase your distance. (Don’t cheat on the count, either.)

The old “two car lengths” distance is very old information – from when I went through Driver’s Ed in the late 1960s – and we didn’t drive at more than 50 mph very often.

In any case, the two-second rule is “minimum” following distance, in good weather on good pavement with good visibility and no distractions. If the weather is bad, or it’s nighttime or your feeling tired or distracted or whatever else can be wrong, then the distance should only be increased.

jca's avatar

In snow or ice, even if you have a reasonable space between your car and the car in front of you, if you step on the brakes, you may not stop, or you may skid. On the accident report to the MVB (at least in NYS), road conditions (i.e. wet, slippery, etc.) are noted.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I disagree with the car length or 2 second rule or whatever. While you’re calculating you’re not paying attention to your driving. It’s just as easy to follow someone from a distance of 2 city blocks as it is to follow someone at a distance of two car lengths….except at two car lengths you can’s see what’s in front of the car you’re following.
I’m saying, if you’re not going to pass, stay far, far away from others no matter what the conditions are.

Paradox25's avatar

People (aka morons) simply drive too fast for weather conditions. I see this all of the time where I live.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@Paradox25 “People (aka morons) simply drive too fast for weather conditions.”

I especially notice this with SUVs. Because the drivers have 4-wheel drive and big vehicles, they think they’re invincible. So many times, I’ve been on a snowy, icy road with an SUV right near my rear bumper. The drivers don’t understand that larger vehicles take longer to stop, and need more space, than smaller cars.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My favorite scenario is when some moron blows past me on an icy road, impatient with how slowly I’m going…and a mile up the road said moron is in the ditch. I always want to honk and wave cheerily. :)

El_Cadejo's avatar

Egh I live in an area where offroad/lifted trucks are particularly popular. When it snows all these idiots still believe they can do 60mph down the windy road. I’d estimate I see twice as many trucks in accidents during snow conditions than I do cars.

When I drive in the snow in I like to think of it like playing asteroids. You release the acceleration toward a given vector, but dependent on your velocity you’ll still travel in that vector for a little while.

Paradox25's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul Just look at tv when they show massive pile ups and accidents on the news. You can clearly tell those drivers are moving very fast, then they either can’t brake in time for someone else having trouble in front of them, or they simply lose control.

This issue ticks me off because I’ve had other people hit me or cause me to have close calls because of their idiotic driving habits in bad weather. I’m also always reading about people being in accidents, killing/hurting others or themselves, all because they didn’t have the common sense to drive a bit slower in foul weather.

It’s simple freaking common sense that it is more difficult to stop when the roads are slippery, and the faster you go you increase your chances at being in an accident because it’s simply easier to lose control.

jerv's avatar

@Paradox25 That’s one reason I love my older imports; they’re lighter, which means less inertia and momentum, which makes them easier to control. Being in control helps you avoid idiots who lose control, or at least mitigate things. That’s how I managed to go under the back bumper of a sideways SUV instead of T-boning him; not great, but better than it could’ve been. Had I been driving something bigger and heavier (pretty much anything after 1990), I wouldn’t have had the control to pull that off.

jca's avatar

I have been in cars on ice where the person did nothing to make the car spin, and it spins on its own.

I know when it’s icy out, you can be going very slowly and still skid, and go flying in a direction that cannot be pre-determined, and even if you’re 30 feet from the car in front of you or from an inanimate object, you will hit it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

When I was in HS, had about 1.5 years of driving experience under my belt, when an acquaintance drove my bf and me home from a party. The roads were icy and I remember thinking that the guy driving didn’t seem to be taking that into account. I tried to say something, and he just brushed me off with “I’m a good driver.”
We came up on a stop sign in town, he hit the brakes, and the car just slid on through the stop sign. He stood on them, which, of course, didn’t help at all.
The driver said, “Wow! I lost my brakes! I didn’t realize they were going bad! I wonder how that happened!”
I think I called him everything short of a brain dead mutant toad. I was SO angry!! Some people are too freaking stupid, seriously, to be behind the wheel of a car.

jerv's avatar

@Dutchess_III And that is why I don’t live in the Midwest. Where I grew up, even 3-year-olds and small furry animals knew about ice.

Also, you now know how I feel about breathing. Every day, I see at least 3 people that are to dumb to be doing that either.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Sure the best excuse , it is always the other guys fault.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s my husband’s excuse @SQUEEKY2!

Some people assume that they always have the right of way, no matter what.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr and people think I am blowing it out of proportion when I say most of the drivers out there are idiots,this video you just gave us proves it.

jca's avatar

Whoa is right! That looked like pinball!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Un-freaking believable. And people were out of their cars running around on the highway! It looked like at least one person got hit that way.

Dutchess_III's avatar

More info.

Three people died.

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