After a Crash, Claiming that Something Happened 'Suddenly' is Usually Just an Excuse

It’s a very misguided belief that crashes are somehow acceptable if something went wrong ‘suddenly,’ on the road ahead.

Writing this as a retired traffic patrol police officer who has dealt with and investigated countless crashes, I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve been at a crash scene and had drivers tell me:

“It wasn’t my fault. Suddenly they [drove/walked/ran/cycled] right out in front of me!”

Here’s a classic example of a potentially lethal crisis that could easily be avoided not only by the pedestrian using more sense but also by any approaching driver. (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])

A driver might actually feel justified in making such a comment but the difference between a poor driver and a truly good driver is that the poor driver could very likely be telling the officer this while standing near to people who have quite unnecessarily been killed or injured.

The fact is that to a properly-trained* driver, virtually nothing happens ‘suddenly,’ up ahead, because they are thinking ahead, planning their drive, and using a disciplined, accurate and relevant regime of observations. (And this typically does NOT follow the common but simplistic advice of merely looking 10/12/15 seconds ahead of your vehicle. There is much more to it than that!)

Does this mean that a person we are calling a ‘good driver’ plans and makes allowances for other people’s errors or even downright stupidity, so that the potetial collisions never happen? Yes; you bet it does.

Think of it another way. Would you sooner go home and tell your family that you were in a collision that killed somebody, or would it be nicer to tell them — for example — “a child ran out in front of me today but I had thought of the possibility and slowed down before I even saw the kid, so he’s okay!”

This is just one example of what proper advanced driving is about, and it saves lives every day.

Anyway, here’s the full sequence for the critical moment shown in the photograph above:

As you can see: A pick-up pulling out from a street on the left, and a man correctly using the crosswalk. (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])
The woman foolishly ignores the very nearby crosswalk and crosses between slow moving vehicles. Note that if she had crossed behind that huge pick-up truck rather than in front of it, she would still have been out of sight to vehicles coming from the camera direction. (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])
The moment of crisis. Cars approaching from the camera direction can legally be doing 30mph, which is 44 feet-per-second, which is fast enough to create a very significant risk of a pedestrian being killed. (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])
And the ‘reason’ for this pedestrian’s illegal act of stupidity? Why, to get to her car without walking an extra 30-40 paces, of course. Really well worth risking life and limb for! (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])

But here’s the key point…. In which of the above photographs did you first see the woman?

I hope you were truthfully able to answer the first photo in the group of four. Anything less than that is not paying enough attention — the first stage of distracted driving — and in turn, that invalidates any excuse that something “happened suddenly,” ahead of you.

Not convinced?

Here it is again, close-up:

Admittedly she’s quite well obscured but is there to be seen, none-the-less. (Copyright image, 202o. All rights reserved. [Photo taken from passenger seat.])

It is worth adding that it doesn’t really matter to whom a court attributes blame after a crash; the only thing that really matters is harm to people or — more appropriately — the lack of harm to people.

Becoming a dramatically more attentive and observant driver is a small price to pay if one day you or one of your fleet drivers are truly able to prevent a death or a serious injury that a regular driver would have failed to anticipate.

Can some drivers do such things naturally, without additional training? The answer to this is that everyone is occasionally capable of spotting something in advance but — having trained many thousands of already-experienced drivers for Fortune-500 companies and other major corporations — we can honestly say that nobody we have ever trained was already near the standard of seeing as much as they could have done or should have done.

It really is that important.


* The training we provide, at Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA], is based very closely on the ‘System of Car Control’ — nowadays sometimes referred to by the acronym of ‘IPSGA’ — which has been continually refined and developed since 1935 by the traffic patrol police in Britain who, in turn, are acknowledged as being the safest drivers in the world.

It’s not just for police drivers though. It was adapted for civilian drivers in 1955.

Importantly, though, at ADoNA, we have also very carefully adapted the System for the highway engineering, the rules and the road safety culture in the U.S.A.


To discuss what ADoNA training could do for your corporation in terms of dramatically improved safety as well as huge financial savings and a visible increase in community image, please Contact Us.


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Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

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