In the vast majority of situations, one vehicle hits another. This can be caused by a variety of factors and does not necessarily mean one party is at fault or should be subjected to criminal or traffic proceedings, but most accidents involve two vehicles. However, what laws are implicated in single vehicle accidents?
A real life example: a driver is heading home and is travelling through his neighborhood. He stops at a T-intersection and turns when his car hits a tree branch that fell from a nearby tree during last night’s storm. Thinking nothing of it, the driver heads home and examines the damage to the front of his vehicle. Moments later the police arrive and charge the driver with failure to report an accident, a criminal offense, as well as failure to reduce speed in order to avoid an accident, a petty offense.
Consider this also: a driver caught is caught in a winter storm. A common experience for Illinois driver’s, this blizzard restricts visibility and layers the road in a two-inch thick layer of ice. The vehicle goes around a curve and slides off the road. Luckily, the vehicle stops when it hits a snowbank and no one is injured. However, the driver who goes to a nearby hotel for warmth returns to his vehicle to find citations similar to the driver above.
In contrast, we will consider a driver who is similarly in the middle of a winter storm, but his car unfortunately slides through the store front of a local business.
625 ILCS 5/11-601 – Failure to Reduce Speed
In essence, the statute requires that a driver operate their vehicle slow enough to stop to avoid a collision. This is the default traffic citation issued when the police do not really know what else to do; this is generally their fall back citation. Namely, the driver must not operate their vehicle in such a manner as to “endanger[s] the safety of any person or property.”
It is important to recognize the policy behind this statute. It is important to protect drivers from one another by imposing a duty to operate our vehicles in a reasonable manner. This means that, regardless of the speed limit, vehicles have to operated safely. In McHenry County, Illinois, we all know that there are frequent winter storms which require us to travel at speeds much lower than the limits. It would be unreasonable to travel at 55 mph, even if that is the speed limit, during a icy blizzard of February.
In a collision involving a single vehicle, how is the purpose behind the statute applied? Well, damage can be caused to the property of another. In the instance involving a local business, the business owner has been damaged. Regardless of the speed limit, the driver was obviously not going slow enough to stop. Therefore, it is very possible that they can be prosecuted for failing to reduce speed due to the damage that was sustained by the merchant.
Conversely, what about the other two drivers? One damaged a tree branch and the other struck a snowbank. How is the public policy of protecting one person’s property from the driving of another advanced in such a situation? The answer is simple: it isn’t. No damage is done to the property of another so the grounds for criminal culpability are suspect.
This type of argument is known as an equitable one. In McHenry County traffic court, this is often very persuasive. Based off of logic and grounded in the law, an argument regarding the policy of laws is fundamentally important.
625 ILCS 5/11-404 – Failure to Report an Accident
So, now that we’ve established that Failure to Reduce Speed is generally inapplicable in single vehicle accidents involving no property damage, one would assume that the citation for Failure to Report an Accident would also be inapplicable. One would think, but that is not always the case. In many instances, a strong criminal defense attorney is required.
The policy behind Failing to Report an Accident is obvious – Illinois lawmakers want to make sure that those drivers who cause property damage provide their insurance and/or contact information. However, this makes no sense, and is not applicable, when the only damage that was done was to the d river’s personal vehicle.
Unfortunately, sometimes an experienced criminal and traffic attorney is required to point out the obviously Many State’s Attorney Offices are reluctant to dismiss charges because it may make their office seem weak on crime. In such situations, you don’t need an attorney who is trying to make friends with the prosecution – you need an attorney who is bold and aggressive. As ridiculous as the above hypotheticals may sound, Evan E. Randall has successfully defended against the drivers in both scenarios. Call our office at (815) 880-4529 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free consultation.