“I was going with the flow of traffic.” and Other Common Non-Defenses

“I was going with the flow of traffic” is Not a Defense

The most common defense I hear in court, virtually everyday, is “I was only going with the flow of traffic.” In law, this is not a defense at all. A speeding violation occurs when a driver exceeds a certain speed. it does not matter if other cars were speeding, it only matters if the driver cited was speeding. (The speed limit may be established for certain road conditions, or may be a statewide maximum speed, or may be posted speed, or may be a speed limit for the type of operation, e.g., pulling a trailer.)

“I needed to go pee” is Not a Defense

A real emergency may be a defense. However, “I had to go to the bathroom” is not a defense. One time I do recall a judge giving someone a break due to a pressing personal hygiene need. However, that did not relieve (no pun intended) the person of all liability; she just got a reduce fine.

“I merged in the carpool lane to avoid an accident” is Not a Defense when You were Following too Closely

A retired judge I used to see every other day in court used to say the same thing every time a defendant, or client, said that they had changed lanes into the carpool lane to avoid an accident. He would say, “I have been doing this 22 years, and only four times has someone had an excuse other than to avoid an accident for being in the carpool lane.” He would then go on to explain that unless they had something else to say besides they were avoiding an accident, it was probably not going to help their case.

Their are a few problems with a driver claiming he or she was avoiding an accident by making a lane change over double yellow lines. For one, obviously, this creates evidence against the driver/defendant that the court will now use to find that the driver did in fact violate the law. Now, absent an defense, the driver will be found guilty. Another conceren is that unless the driver can establish that the dangerous situation was created in no way by the driver following to closely, the court will assume that the driver could not stop in time because the driver did not leave sufficient distance infront of him/her to stop considering the speed.

The DMV handbook demonstrates distance requirements for stopping to avoid an accident, between cars, based on speed. Basic calculations are shown in terms of car lengths. (Unfortunately, if a driver keeps the distance that the DMV handbook states, when driving on the 405 freeway, for example, that driver will be constantly passed and cut in front of by other commuters. Reality does match the textbook. However, the textbook determines the violation.)

Thus, best to slow down, at least a little, not tailgate, at least not too close, and stay innocuous while driving.


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