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In the bustling streets of California, a peculiar and often reckless behavior known as “brake checking” has become a distressingly common sight. This audacious maneuver unfolds when a driver, exasperated by the persistent tailgating of another motorist, abruptly taps or even forcefully stomps on their brakes. It’s an expression of frustration in the face of perceived harassment on the road, but its repercussions can be nothing short of disastrous, leading to perilous motor vehicle collisions. Our San Diego car accident attorneys will explain. 

The Legal Perspective: Is Brake Checking Illegal in California?

While brake checking may seem like a frequent occurrence, it’s vital to recognize that this conduct is generally considered illegal under the auspices of California state law. It treads on the thin ice of traffic regulations as it can easily be classified as obstructing the reasonable flow of traffic, potentially leading to a ticket for violating California Vehicle Code 22400(a). The consequences may become graver if an accident ensues as a direct result of brake checking, potentially turning it into a criminal offense.

Is Tailgating Illegal In California?

But the intricate dance of California traffic law doesn’t stop there. Tailgating, the behavior that often provokes the aforementioned brake checking, is also unlawful in this Golden State. Under the ever-watchful eye of Vehicle Code § 21703 VC, following another driver at a distance deemed unreasonable and imprudent is considered a moving violation. The degree of subjectivity in determining what constitutes a prudent following distance can be perplexing. It’s not simply about how many car lengths separate two vehicles; it’s about assessing whether this proximity elevates the likelihood of an accident given the current driving conditions, such as speed and weather.

Navigating the Legal Consequences: Collisions and Liability

So, what happens when the inevitable occurs and you find yourself in a collision brought about by brake checking? Brace yourself for a double-edged sword of both criminal and civil consequences. The outcome largely hinges on the specific circumstances at hand.

In the event that you rear-end another motorist due to their abrupt brake check, the burden of liability often falls on your shoulders. This is due to the fundamental duty of every driver: to maintain a safe following distance. Should you neglect this duty, the repercussions may include being held liable for the damage inflicted on the other party or their vehicle. Negligence in such cases can lead to personal injury claims, as you might not have sufficient time to safely brake in response to changing road conditions or sudden deceleration by the vehicle in front.

Brake Checking: How Do You Determine Fault? 

Yet, the narrative isn’t always so cut and dry. There are scenarios where the lead driver, in their quest to make a point by brake checking, may find themselves to be at fault. Abruptly decelerating or coming to a standstill on a high-speed road is an inherently dangerous action, and it can make avoiding a collision near impossible for the trailing driver, even if they were maintaining a reasonably safe distance. In such intricate situations, it’s often left to the wisdom of a judge or a jury to untangle the web of culpability.

The Perils of Brake Checking: A Risk Not Worth Taking

In light of these complex and risky circumstances, one might wonder if it’s ever prudent to employ the tactic of brake checking as a response to tailgating. The resounding answer, however, is an unequivocal no. No matter how frustrating the actions of another driver might be, brake checking is a gamble no one should take lightly. While it may convey the message you desire, it can just as swiftly result in a harrowing collision. The aftermath of such an incident can encompass severe consequences, far exceeding the temporary irritation of being tailgated.

Seeking Legal Counsel After a Brake Check Accident

In the event that you have already found yourself embroiled in an accident stemming from a brake check, it’s imperative to consult with a qualified attorney. Brake checking is a treacherous practice that significantly heightens the likelihood of a collision, and you may be entitled to financial compensation for any damages incurred.

The team at HHJ Trial Attorneys specializes in handling personal injury cases and holds a distinguished track record of successfully holding negligent drivers accountable. If you find yourself at the crossroads of uncertainty following a brake check-induced collision, it’s in your best interest to reach out to us as soon as possible. Our doors are always open, and we offer a free consultation to help you navigate the complexities of your situation. Your safety and well-being are of paramount importance to us, and we are here to help you chart a path forward.

 

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