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Who is Liable if Following Too Closely Leads to a Crash in PA?

blurred image of a car following too closelyWe have all experienced those impatient drivers who tailgate to get you to go faster or move out of their way. These individuals may think there is no harm and that they are just gently pressuring you. However, following too closely to another vehicle is illegal and considered aggressive driving behavior. It could also lead to a dangerous crash.

At Schmidt Kramer, we hear about tailgating drivers causing crashes all the time. Below, we explain some different scenarios where following too closely can lead to a crash. We also discuss who could be responsible for your damages and some tips on how to avoid these reckless drivers.

Injured in a crash caused by another driver’s negligence? Not sure what to do next? At Schmidt Kramer, we have answers to your legal questions and we are ready to help.

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Who is At Fault if Following Too Closely Causes a Crash?

Drivers following another vehicle too closely have an increased risk of causing a rear-end crash. Sometimes, a multi-vehicle collision may also occur. In either of these situations, liability will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Most of the time, however, the tailing driver will likely be assessed with fault for a rear-end collision and therefore, liability for the damage. In a multi-vehicle crash, the tailing driver is also likely to be found liable. However, if the driver of a third vehicle was also following too closely, then liability may be shared.

Could the Driver in Front Share Liability for a Rear-End Crash?

If the tailing driver was following too closely, it is unlikely that the driver in front will be assessed with any negligence. There may be a couple of rare exceptions. For instance, if the driver in front did a brake check to get the tailing driver to back off. This is a situation where the driver in front could be deemed partially responsible for the crash.

How is Following Too Closely Defined?

In Pennsylvania, the law defines following too closely as driving more closely than what is considered to be reasonable and prudent.

What does that mean in plain English? It means you are driving so close to the car in front of you that you will be unable to avoid hitting that vehicle if they have to suddenly stop. Even drivers paying attention will not be able to avoid a crash in this situation.

What is a Safe Following Distance?

The three-second rule is a tried and true place to start. This distance is figured out by noting when the vehicle in front of you passes a stationary object. After passing that object, count one-1000, two-1000, three-1000. That is the three-second rule. Over time, you will be able to estimate that distance pretty well.

Another way of assessing a safe driving distance is to keep one full car length for every 10 miles per hour you drive.  So, for instance, if you are going 55 miles per hour, you should keep six car lengths between you to give you time to react.

All that said, use common sense. If it is pouring rain out and you are using the three-second rule, you are not going to have time to stop quickly to avoid a crash. Rain makes the roads slick and may also cause flooding. The car in front of you may suddenly slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a pothole or pool of water they saw too late.

Keeping that in mind, it is important to point out that a safe following distance can change. This means, in certain circumstances, you should increase your following distance:

  • Bad or inclement weather
  • Road conditions
  • Visibility
  • Heavy traffic
  • Entering or exiting a highway
  • Driving a larger vehicle, such as a pickup truck, SUV or minivan. Drivers need more time and distance to stop these vehicles due to their weight.
  • Anytime you are behind a cyclist or motorcycle – riders of these vehicles are more vulnerable and also more likely to fall. Giving yourself enough time to stop can help avoid a catastrophic incident.
  • Following any vehicle, like a bus, that makes frequent stops – people may be getting out of these vehicles.
  • If you are being tailgated by another driver, having more room in front gives you space to change lanes. It may also encourage the driver behind you to pass you.

What if I Need to Drive With the Flow of Traffic to Avoid a Crash?

Traveling with the flow of traffic may be advisable at times, such as if the roads are bad and everyone needs to go slower to avoid causing a crash. However, do not confuse driving with the flow of traffic with following too closely. They are two different things. Even when going with the flow of traffic, you have a duty to maintain a safe following distance.

Are There Penalties for Following Too Closely in Pennsylvania?

If you tailgate another vehicle in Pennsylvania and get caught, you can expect to get a ticket. Additionally, if you either plead guilty (a no contest to a ticket is considered a guilty plea) or are found guilty, there are other penalties.

  • Drivers will be assessed a $25 fine plus court costs – which could be $100 or more.
  • If found guilty, the driver will have three points added to his or her driving record.
  • The insurance company may consider that driver a greater risk and increase the cost of their insurance premiums.

What Can I Do if a Driver is Following Too Closely to My Car?

There are a few things you can do if someone is tailgating you. The most important thing to do is to remain calm. Getting angry will only increase the risk of a crash. Instead, here are some tips for safely putting some distance between you and a tailgating driver:

  • Avoid slamming on your brakes: While slamming on your brakes may seem satisfying in a “don’t mess with me” kind of way, it is a bad idea. You could end up causing a crash, for which you could be at least partially liable. It could also result in severe or life-altering injuries.
  • Move over to a slower traffic lane: If you are driving slower because of weather or road conditions, it can be better to ride in the middle or far right lane. Faster-moving traffic tends to stay to the left. We do not support drivers speeding on the highways, as they endanger others. However, driving too slowly in these lanes could also put you at risk of injury if a crash occurs.
  • Gently slow your speed: If there is no space in the next lane for you to safely move over, you can gently tap on your brakes to slow your vehicle down a bit. This creates space in front of you, allowing the tailing driver to pass you.
  • Resist the urge to honk or “wave” at the aggressive driver: Engaging with a reckless driver could result in a road rage incident. The other driver’s intentions, mood and stress levels are unknown to you, so pushing these limits may only make the situation worse.

Need Legal Help After a Car Crash? Contact Our Trusted Law Firm for Help

At Schmidt Kramer, we have a team of legal professionals who are experienced and highly qualified. Our firm also has a long and proven history of results. We have recovered over $100 million in compensation for our clients.

While most car crash cases reach a settlement, our knowledgeable auto accident lawyers in Harrisburg are prepared to represent you in court if it becomes necessary.

Call our law offices anytime, night or day, to discuss your situation and get answers to your legal questions. If you have a case and we represent you, there are no out-of-pocket costs to pay. We only get paid if you do.

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