When a rear-end collision takes place in Arizona, the assumption is that the rear driver will be responsible or liable. However, some rear-end collisions are not wholly the fault of the rear driver. In some cases, the front driver could also be at fault for brake checking – a dangerous driving behavior that is against the law in Arizona.
What Is Brake Checking?
Brake checking refers to a driver suddenly and without due cause slamming on the brakes, typically to startle or aggravate the driver behind him or her. Brake checking may be done in response to another driver tailgating or following too closely. However, it is not an acceptable maneuver and can be extremely dangerous. Abruptly hitting the brakes – especially when another driver is following too closely – can cause a harmful rear-end collision.
Following too closely breaks Arizona’s traffic laws. Arizona Revised Statutes Section 28-730 states that the driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent. A safe following distance depends on the speed of both vehicles, the traffic on the highway, and the condition of the road. Tailgating is when a driver intentionally follows too closely, often to express frustration or aggression toward another driver. Unfortunately, some drivers react to tailgating with brake checking – another dangerous behavior.
Brake Checking Is Against the Law in Arizona
Arizona does not have a law specifically against brake checking, but it does prohibit reckless and aggressive driving. ARS Section 28-693 defines the crime of reckless driving as operating a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property. This is a class 2 misdemeanor, punishable with a fine and up to 90 days of driver’s license suspension.
Brake checking could also meet Arizona’s definition of aggressive driving (ARS 28-695). This is a more serious crime than reckless driving; it is a class 1 misdemeanor. It refers to a combination of speeding and at least two other moving violations, such as following a vehicle too closely or making an unsafe lane change. Aggressive driving is punishable with fines, mandatory traffic school and driver’s license suspension for up to 30 days.
Did Brake Checking Cause a Car Accident?
If a car accident involves following too closely, intentional tailgating and/or brake checking, liability can be difficult to determine. The rear driver is almost always at fault for a rear-end collision, as it is this driver’s responsibility to pay attention to traffic and keep a safe following distance. However, if the leading driver abruptly hits the brakes – especially as a targeted and aggressive act of brake checking – he or she could be held responsible for a related vehicle collision.
In a rear-end collision where one driver is following too closely and the other driver is guilty of brake checking, both could be held accountable for the crash. Arizona uses a comparative negligence law in a case where an injured victim contributed to the car accident. In this scenario, the injured victim’s compensatory award will be reduced in proportion to his or her degree of fault, if any.
For example, a brake-checking driver may be 75 percent at fault for slamming on the brakes and making another driver crash into the back of his or her vehicle, but if the other driver was following too closely, 25 percent of fault may be allocated to the rear driver. This would reduce the victim’s financial settlement or judgment award by an equivalent 25 percent. In addition, both drivers could potentially face criminal penalties for reckless or aggressive driving behaviors that caused the car accident.