ORLANDO, Fla. – News 6 traffic safety expert Trooper Steve Montiero looks at traffic topics, answers viewer questions and shares tips about the rules of the road, helping Central Florida residents become better drivers by being better educated.
In the latest edition of Ask Trooper Steve, he looks at a story that has become a big talker.
By now, you have probably seen the recent article involving a driver avoiding a couch on I-95 in Florida and receiving a ticket for crashing their own vehicle.
“This incident has gone off the walls when it comes to response over social media, so I figured I would explain the backstory and why things are done in certain ways when it comes crash investigations,” Trooper Steve said. “I understand not everyone will agree with me, but as long as you can understand where we come from when investigating a crash, that’s all that matters to me.”
Here’s the story in a nutshell: A vehicle was traveling in Fort Lauderdale north on I-95 in a center travel lane and following a pickup truck that had a couch in its bed. During the course of their travels, the couch came off the pickup truck and landed on the highway. The driver behind the truck swerved to avoid the couch but overcorrected and ended up leaving the road, traveling over the guardrail and crashing. At the end of the crash investigation, the trooper ultimately issued a ticket to the driver who swerved for failing to maintain their lane. The driver of the pickup has yet to be located.
“A common-sense theory behind crash investigation, and in general, is you cannot avoid a crash and then cause a crash during the course of your avoidance,” Trooper Steve said. “Let me explain that a little bit further. If something was to occur in front of your vehicle and you maneuvered that vehicle to avoid a sudden collision, during the course of your maneuver to avoid a collision, you cannot strike something else.”
Trooper Steve said he would not have issued a ticket for this specific crash, but there is only one reason for that.
“I do believe that no matter how a crash occurs, fault needs to be determined on how that crash occurred,” he said. “So many other things could have happened as a result of this driver avoiding the couch in the roadway and we are lucky we are not talking about something more severe.”
“First, I will answer why I would not have written the initial citation in this crash: A standing rule of thought is that if a driver is involved in a single-vehicle crash and does not cause damage to anyone else’s property or hurt any other party involved, other than themselves, you would simply show that they contributed to the crash and document how that happened and not write a ticket. Simply writing a ticket in this type of situation is basically pouring salt on top of the wound.”
But that does not mean a ticket should not ever be written for a single-vehicle crash, he added.
“Let’s use the exact same situation but a different result,” he said. “The driver now swerves out of the way from the center travel lane and fails to maintain control of their vehicle and during the course of their maneuver to avoid that couch leaves the roadway and strikes something -- could be anything -- other than their property and causes damage to that property. In this case, I would be supportive of a citation being issued, especially if that driver swerves to avoid this couch and struck a pedestrian or another vehicle. This is where the rule of ‘you can’t avoid a crash and cause a crash’ comes into play.”
Many are asking, “Well, what else was the driver supposed to do?”
“When I say what I’m about to say, you have to understand the world that I live in and the things that I have seen and the stance that I believe,” Trooper Steve said. “Driving is one of the most dangerous things people will do in their entire lives, unless your career path takes you into a different world. A simple mistake can result in devastating results out on the roads. Failing to be aware of your surroundings or in complete control of your car is only the fault of the driver. Every crash is circumstantial. So when something happens and the consequences are different than something similar that may have occurred a week prior or could be in the future, so we cannot compare each crash to being the exact same thing.”
A lot of people think that because a ticket was issued, that is the deciding factor of the crash.
“This is not necessarily true,” Trooper Steve said. “A ticket is issued during the course of a crash investigation to cite the contributing factors that led to the ultimate crash. So the reason the trooper wrote the initial ticket, which the FHP has now decided to take back, was because that driver could have done several other things.”
Based on the crash report, Trooper Steve said the driver had two options.
“The options were to maneuver to the right lane or the left lane to avoid the obstruction in the center travel lane,” he said. “The driver’s overcorrection had them leave the center travel lane, travel over the left lane and continue through the left shoulder, resulting in their vehicle overturning after colliding with the guardrail.
“I hope that this could provide some insight and understanding to some crash situations. I’m glad the FHP dismissed this ticket. If someone or something else would have been struck, then I hope the ticket would have stayed.”
Situational awareness is important every time we are behind the wheel, he added.
“This goes for you and for me,” he said. “Know that ultimately I only care about our safety. That’s it.”