Tailgating Can Get You Sued For Personal Injuries Or Wrongful Death

Hopefully you’ve never been in a chain reaction collision, and have instead only had to drive by one in a slow line of traffic while looking at the wrecked vehicles and motorcycles in the other lane and grumbling about people not watching what they’re doing.  Invariably, such a chain reaction collision is a series of rear-end collisions and happened at an intersection or a choke point where traffic had slowed.  What are driver’s responsibilities for avoiding rear-end collisions?

First, don’t tailgate.  Iowa law requires that “the driver of a vehicle shall not follow another vehicle closer than is reasonable, considering the speed of the vehicles, the traffic and the condition of the highway. . . .  Any person driving a vehicle on a highway shall drive at a careful speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard for the traffic, surface and width of the highway and of any other existing conditions.”

Second, watch where you’re going.  Iowa law mandates that drivers maintain a “proper lookout.”  “Proper lookout” is the lookout a reasonable person would keep in the same or similar situation.  It means more than looking and seeing.  It includes being aware of the operation of the driver’s vehicle in relation to what the driver saw or should have seen.

Third, don’t drive too fast.  A driver must have his or her vehicle under control.  It is under control when the driver can guide and direct its movement, control its speed and stop it reasonably fast.  No person shall drive any vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than will permit them to stop within the assured clear distance ahead.  The words “within the assured clear distance ahead” mean the distance from which noticeable objects, reasonably expected or anticipated to be upon the highway, may be seen.

Finally, make sure your brakes work.  Iowa requires the brakes on any motor vehicle to be adequate to stop a vehicle having a gross weight of less than 5,000 pounds within a distance of 30 feet or a vehicle having a gross weight in excess of 5,000 pounds within a distance of 45 feet when traveling 20 miles per hour on a dry surface where the grade does not exceed one per cent.

Remember that, if you break any of these “rules of the road” and cause or contribute to an accident that results in personal injuries or wrongful death, you’re usually considered automatically guilty of negligence absent some sort of legal excuse or sudden emergency.  That’s why the great majority of the time the person who rear-ends a vehicle in front of them is unquestionably negligent.  The only question is how much money the driver in front of them will get.


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