IS UNLICENSED AND INEXPERIENCED DRIVER INCOMPETENT?
by J. Swike
I recently had experience where my daughter was in accident with a 17-year-old unlicensed driver (learners permit) with NO ADULT DRIVER, who had an underage passenger and was speeding.
Briefly, before making a left turn on a yellow light my daughter checked and saw one oncoming vehicle at 500 feet. She determined it was safe to turn because the yellow light is 4 sec, the speed limit is 45 mph, time to travel 500 ft @ 45 mph is 7-1/2 seconds, so the oncoming driver will have to stop.
Halfway into the left turn, the passenger with my daughter screamed because oncoming car was approaching very fast and not slowing down (never hit his brakes).
My daughter was ticketed for failure to yield and other driver was ticketed for no license.
My daughter's car was hit so hard it was pushed back 1 lane of traffic and turned 180 in opposite direction. The entire front was crushed. Crush analysis determined other car was traveling between 70-75 mph. Speed chart shows car at 70-75 mph takes only 4-1/2 seconds.
The judge said my daughter was guilty at traffic court. I DISAGREE. The other driver was clearly speeding. At normal speed other driver would have to stop at red light. The other driver had only learners permit with NO Adult Driver and had a passenger, both of which are wrong.
If other driver had responsible adult passenger is it correct to assume this accident never would have happened. In this case, since there was not adult present would the other driver be considered incompetent due to lack of experience?
Daughter filed appeal. Results are pending.
J. SwikeOur response
: Considering the picture you submitted, that looks like a hard hit. We hope that your daughter was not injured, and that if she was, she has healed quickly.
This is an interesting situation. Neither the fact that the other driver did not have appropriate adult supervision (per the terms of his learners permit), nor his lack of experience are proof that he was negligent. If the investigating police officer was thorough, he would have at least given the other driver a citation for violating the terms of his permit. Again, those are not proof of fault.
Otherwise, in most states, excessive speed on the part of one driver does not outweigh the responsibility of another driver to yield the right of way, and if both drivers were entering the intersection on a yellow light (speeding or not), the turning driver would have a greater duty to yield the right of way.
Obviously the Judge had more information to review at the time of trial that we do here, and his decision should have been explained to your daughter.
Fortunately, traffic court outcomes do not necessarily determine the outcome of a civil matter. Should the other driver or his passenger attempt to sue your daughter (through the insurance company), excessive speed could be a viable defense as it would indicate that the other driver contributed to the accident. (See our page on contributory negligence here
. That would bar the driver from being able to make a claim against your daughter.This reader comment and article are approved for informational purposes only. It is not intended to take the place of competent, local legal counsel.